MOSCOW, Russia - In one of the longest two-setters on the WTA in recent memory, Sam Stosur made a winning start to her Kremlin Cup campaign on Thursday, edging Alizé Cornet in a two-hour, 29-minute marathon, 76(6) 75.
The No.1-seeded Stosur, who was playing her first match of the week after a first round bye, came out strong, holding easily in the opening game and getting break point in the second game. But the rest of the match was nothing like that, as Cornet tested Stosur with her unique game - heavy topspin off the forehand, a variety of spins off the backhand - and took it to Stosur, just like she had in the past, the Frenchwoman having won two of their three previous meetings.
Cornet would lead by a break twice in the first set and hold three set points at 5-4 in the second set but eventually Stosur was too tough at the end, winning 11 of the last 14 points of the match after fending off Cornet's third set point.
"We've always had tough matches - she just moves well, runs a lot of balls down and always keeps fighting," Stosur said. "Today I had a lot of opportunities to finish the points off and kept making errors, but I was setting the points up well, so I knew I had to keep backing myself and believing what I was doing was the right thing, and eventually I'd get the rewards for what I was doing."
What match stat would Stosur have liked to turn around the most? "I made a lot of errors up at net, which usually would be inexcusable mistakes. But I was in the right position to win the points, so I just kept trying to do the right thing. I knew eventually I'd make enough to win. I knew that's the way I'd win today.
"I had to keep going, no matter if I was making or missing them."
Stosur's win over Cornet was the 400th match win of her career.
Next up for the World No.9 is another tricky opponent, Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova - Stosur has won all three of their previous meetings.
"I remember playing one match against Klara at the Australian Open and it was 6 and 6, so obviously very close," Stosur said. "I think typically she'd like a faster court so she can hit the ball flat and that kind of thing - it's really tough to hit winners on this court, you've got to work the point and get to the open court.
"But I'll think more about it later. I'm still a bit frazzled about today's match!"
By virtue of Marion Bartoli's loss a day earlier, Stosur is now a lock as first alternate at next week's TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012. She talked about that in her post-match press conference on Thursday.
"To be honest, I was going to come out here and do whatever it took to get through to the next round regardless, but in some ways it took that little bit of extra pressure off me today," Stosur said. "Being the first alternate and the ranking difference isn't riding on anything now, which of course probably makes it a little bit easier to go out there and play my tennis here in Moscow."