A matter of inches
For an awful split second, Sam Stosur feared her French Open campaign was over. It was certainly out of her hands.
Having blown the chance to bury Serena Williams in the second set on centre court at Roland Garros, the Queenslander had a match point against her deep in the third set.
The next she knew she had served the ball and was rushing to the net, forcing the world No.1 to pass her.
The American hit a forehand that was out of her reach and Stosur’s initial thought was the ball was going long. Well long. Wasn’t it?
Her tennis instincts kicked in, suddenly the ball wasn’t travelling so rapidly through the air.
“It kind of held up in some way but … thank god it went out by a little bit,” Stosur told AAP.
“I definitely looked at the linesman to check that his arm did go out and I wasn’t just hearing a voice and that the ball was out.”
The ball landed just inches beyond the baseline to her immense relief.
She levelled the scores shortly afterwards and four games later had served out the match for a nail-chomping 6-2 6-7 (2-7) 8-6 quarter-final victory.
Having letting it slip at 5-3 on serve in the second set, Stosur said she had to slam the door shut on the fightback queen second time around.
“When I got that next chance (to serve it out) at 7-6, I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen again,” she said.
“To come back from that point (in losing the second set) and be match point down (and survive), it makes it extra special in a way.”
Understandably, 2002 Roland Garros champion Williams wasn’t in the mood post-match for detailed reflection on the turning point.
“She hit a good serve,” she said.
“You know, I don’t have anything to regret on that point.
“It was almost luck that I made that one shot.”
But Stosur probably deserves such a break.
After all, she has come back from career-threatening Lyme’s disease which robbed her of a year of her career in 2007-08.
Her performances in defeating four-time champion Justine Henin and Williams in successive matches in Paris have been even more exceptional considering that it was only five months ago she was buckling under the weight of expectation before the Australian Open.
And both Henin and Williams, with 19 grand slams between them, had Stosur on the ropes at Roland Garros but couldn’t finish off the Australian.
Sure, she isn’t completely bombproof in tight situations just yet.
But she is using her horror stories from the past to fire her up instead of cripple her.
One of Stosur’s most shattering losses came at the hands of Williams at the Medibank International in January last year.
The Australian had four match points on her lethal serve and butchered them all to allow the American to win the last three games of the contest.
“It did kind of creep into my mind for a split second, that we have played a match that has gone down to the wire before today and I had opportunities,” she said.
“It was not a negative thought, it was more a spur on, you can actually do it this time.
“I think I really proved that to myself that I can do it.”