STRASBOURG, France - Australian No.1 Samantha Stosur hung on to her crown at the Internationaux de Strasbourg on Saturday, outlasting countrywoman Daria Gavrilova, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to win her ninth career title.
"It’s great to win a title," Stosur told reporters after the match. "I was glad to be able to serve the match out very well. Sometimes that’s not an easy thing to do, especially in a final. But I felt like I was really composed and played very well. So I’m happy to get the lead and hold on in the end."
Winning the last match before Roland Garros kicks off on Sunday, Stosur recovered from a set down to win her second Strasbourg title in three years over her good friend and fellow Aussie after two hours and 45 minutes on court.
"I definitely was expecting a tough match against Dasha. We know each other very well, and have practiced a lot together. She typically makes her opponents work very hard to beat her.
"I knew the match would probably be long and tiring, very physical, and she certainly made me work very hard for it. I tried to hang in there, especially when she was playing very well at the start of the match.
"It was only in the last few games of the third set where she made a few errors, and that’s when I was able to capitalize."
Gavrilova was playing her second WTA final, having reached her first last fall at the Kremlin Cup, and would have wrested the mantle of Aussie No.1 from Stosur had she taken the match.
"We were both nervous, and I felt like it was very close, but as the match went on, I definitely thought I was about to play better, more aggressive, and use my weapons," Stosur said.
After narrowly losing the opening set, Stosur stayed on serve with the Internazionali BNL d'Italia quarterfinalist through nine straight holds of serve before the 2011 US Open champion got the crucial break to level the match.
"I like it here very much, especially the last three years. I’ve played really well, winning the tournament twice. There’s a lot to like; it’s a beautiful city, and I’m always happy and excited to come back. I obviously couldn’t have done it this year without receiving the wildcard; I hadn’t planned to come this year, but it was a great decision in the end. I was happy to receive the wildcard, as well."
Stosur reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the French Open in 2009 - finishing runner-up the following year with wins over Justine Henin, Serena Williams, and Jelena Jankovic - and while she may be known for her clay court prowess now, the veteran reminded the press that this wasn't always the case for the Brisbane native.
"There are some similar types of courts to red clay in Victoria, but I didn’t grow up there, and I never really played on clay when I was younger. I made my first trip to Europe when I was 15, and spent 6 weeks on clay. I didn’t have a very good time and so I didn’t like it at all.
"It took me five years through juniors and qualifying to win a match at Roland Garros, so it wasn’t always a good time for me. Later on in my career, it’s really become my best surface."
Stosur has since made two more semifinals at the French, most recently last year where she upset Simona Halep before falling to eventual champion Garbiñe Muguruza.
"As the years have gone on, I think the biggest thing is the movement, especially when they didn’t grow up on it. I had to learn to move and slide into the ball without feeling ling you’re going to fall over.
"But the way I hit the ball, and my weapons certainly suit clay courts. That was always in my favor, so once I learned to be patient and use it all to my advantage with the movement, it’s become very good for me."
There'll be little rest for either Stosur or Gavrilova, who'll quickly head to Paris ahead of the French Open.
"[When I won in 2015], I went straight on the train to Paris. We had a quick practice on Sunday, and played Monday. It’ll be the exact same thing this year. I have the train at 8:20, straight to Paris.
"It’s hard because you really want to be able to enjoy these moments and celebrate. We’ll certainly have a nice train trip, but we’ll have to save going out to dinner for next week."
Stosur landed in the same section of the draw as World No.1 Angelique Kerber, and will open against Kristina Kucova in her first round match on the terre battue.
"I’ll have an easy practice, try to get used to the courts and get used to the different atmosphere. The tournament starts early, so it’ll already be pretty busy and exciting around the grounds, so I’ll just try to feel that and get started on Monday.
"This is a nice victory for me, and I’m going to enjoy it. I’m sure everyone takes note of who’s playing and the results, but for me, right now I’m just thinking about my first round [in Paris], and that’s it."
Strasbourg had Aussie flags waving all day as Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua kicked off Championship Saturday with a 6-4, 6-2 win over top seeds Chan Yung-Jan and Chan Hao-Ching. Barty and Dellacqua reached three Grand Slam doubles finals in 2013, and are back together after brief retirements and injuries sidelined each, respectively.
"It was a good win for the Aussies in doubles to start the day, and then it was obviously going to be a good day no matter what in the singles," Stosur noted. "Still, I’m very happy for Case and Ash."