STRASBOURG, France -- A rematch of last year’s Internationaux de Strasbourg final took place in the second round of this year’s event on Wednesday, and the result remained the same, as defending champion Samantha Stosur of Australia ousted her No.2-seeded compatriot Daria Gavrilova, 6-3, 6-4.
2011 US Open champion Stosur had to rebound from a 1-4 deficit in the second set, but reeled off the final five games of the match to close out Gavrilova in straight sets, making this a more straightforward encounter than last year's final, which Stosur won in three sets after dropping the opening frame.
"I think I played well today," Stosur told the media after the match. "I was happy to find my way back from 4-1 in the second set. It wasn't easy by any means, but I'm very happy I was able to get through and pick up my level again."
Former World No.4 Stosur picked up her second win in three meetings with Gavrilova this year, and her third win in five meetings overall. Both players had 20 unforced errors in the match, but the big-hitting Stosur managed 13 winners, while Gavrilova could only muster up five winners in the 92-minute encounter.
"It's never easy to play someone from your own country, someone that you're friends with, that you get along really well with," Stosur continued. "We both understand that you can be on the court and you fight hard and you do what you normally do, and then you shake hands, and then you go out for dinner and whatever else afterwards."
Stosur's campaign to defend her title moves into the quarterfinals, where she will face No.5 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, who, like Stosur, has not dropped a set in her first two matches in Strasbourg. Stosur has a 5-1 lead in their head-to-head, but they have only played once since 2014, and Cibulkova won that match in 2017.
"It's going to be hard playing Dominika," said Stosur. "We've played many times. I've had good results against her mostly, so that's a good, positive thing, but we haven't played for a little while. So it's still going to be a tough one tomorrow."
The dueling Australians started the match by engaging in numerous all-court rallies, and both Stosur and Gavrilova tried to maneuver the points to favor their strong forehands, which would often be the shot which dictated the result of the rally -- for better or for worse.
After holding for a 1-0 lead with an ace, Stosur cracked the first set open right away, breaking for 2-0 after Gavrilova sprayed some of her forehands, including an unforced error long on Stosur’s third break point of the game. After Stosur held at love for 3-0 with a backhand drop shot, the title-holder was off to the races.
Stosur would only need the single break as she was unbothered on serve for the rest of the set, never facing a break point. Gavrilova acquitted herself well for the remainder of the opener, but could never get a foothold in her opponent's service games, and Stosur closed out the first set with a hold at love.
The momentum turned at the beginning of the second set, as Stosur started to lose the range on her forehand, and popped a few errors off of that wing to cede an early break and resultant 2-0 advantage to Gavrilova. The No.2 seed then had to face a break point in that game, but Gavrilova put away a short Stosur lob to fend off that challenge, and she held for a daunting 3-0 lead.
Gavrilova would reach 4-1 by pounding a forehand winner on game point, and was just two games away from leveling the match at one set apiece. But she lost her next service game with a backhand unforced error that flew long, letting Stosur pull herself back on serve at 4-3.
Stosur then began to fully dominate points with her forehand, and although Gavrilova exhibited stellar defense to put many of those powerful shots back into play, Stosur’s barrage was often successful in the end. Gavrilova’s backhand also started to fail her, and she hit two errors in a row from that side to drop serve at 4-4, handing Stosur an opportunity to serve out the match.
At 5-4, 30-30, Gavrilova thought she reached break point when a deep backhand forced Stosur to hit an error into the net, but after a review of the ball mark, Gavrilova’s backhand was deemed barely long, and, instead, it was match point for Stosur. The reigning champion would not let this chance slip away, and slammed a strong serve to force a long return and saunter into the quarterfinals.