2012 French Open: Stosur eliminates Britain’s Elena Baltacha
Samantha Stosur, the reigning US Open champion and no.6 seed, opened her Roland Garros 2012 account with a solid 6-4 6-0 victory over Britain’s Elena Baltacha.
If tennis rewarded never-say-die effort over power and skill, then Elena Baltacha would be a top ten player, and Samantha Stosur might have been the one on her way home with the clock barely past noon on day one of the tournament. Back in the real world, Baltacha earned the respect of the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd and precious little else at the end of this first round encounter. The Australian’s power play was just too much for her British opponent, and Stosur won 6-4 6-0 in a minute over the hour.
Immediately before this match began, seven Eurofighter jets tore across the Parisian sky to mark the start of the tournament, trailblazing the red, white and blue of the French tricolour in salute. Would this be a good omen for Baltacha, echoing the colours of her own nation’s Union flag? Short answer: no.
What you can always be sure of when watching the 28-year-old Briton is value. It is not in her nature to leave anything in the locker room – every ounce of effort is invested out there on the court, never giving up and constantly battling to forge some tactical path to victory. Even ranked 67 and without a WTA Tour win since March, she came in to this match professing optimism.
But Stosur was in no mood to indulge her, and in no time the reigning US Open champion was 4-1 and 30-0 up on Baltacha’s serve. It was all a far cry from Stosur’s last Slam outing in Melbourne. Hailed as the returning superwoman in the wake of her Flushing Meadows triumph, she promptly folded in the first round under the strain of the domestic fanfare. Here the task was altogether more straightforward.
Of course, Baltacha did not hand her the win on a plate. For as much as she was increasingly overwhelmed by the pace of Stosur’s clouting groundstrokes, in early reply it was Baltacha’s lightness of touch which yielded most reward. But these nice touches were not enough while her first serve refused to get in to gear, and the no.6 seed breached Baltacha’s defence at the first opportunity for 2-0. Showing characteristic grit Baltacha hung on, and with much fist-pumping and cries of “Come on!”, she improbably broke back for 4-5 when Stosur helpfully double faulted.
Yet the Australian was still within reach of the set and would not permit Baltacha to level. Pummeling her groundstrokes for all they were worth, she forced a set point and when Baltacha hit wide, the first set was hers, 6-4 after 38 minutes.
The Briton would not give in, and reached deuce on Stosur’s serve at the start of the second. It wasn’t enough. An ill-judged drop shot from Baltacha fell short to hand the break for 0-2. Wilting beneath the onslaught, she was whitewashed on her next serve for 0-4. On the Briton’s final service game, the Australian brought up three match points. A really beautiful drop shot drew gasps of admiration as Baltacha saved the first, and a backhand crosscourt pass dealt with the second. But a simple forehand winner sealed the match for Stosur, with 61 minutes on the clock.
Baltacha’s ranking will be damaged by this defeat. Perhaps that pain may be soothed by the respect she received from the French crowd as she exited the court. In another world, in another life, Baltacha would have the DNA of a champion. In this world and this life, Stosur’s power and accuracy gave her the edge.