Melbourne – Australian world number nine Samantha Stosur threw away the last five games to hand China's Zheng Jie passage to the Australian Open third round Wednesday in a nervy and hard-fought clash.
Stosur, who suffered first-round flops at WTA events in Brisbane and Sydney this year, was leading 5-2 in the third set but choked in front of her home fans and double faulted to hand Zheng victory 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.
Zheng was never going to be a pushover. Once ranked 15 in the world with four career singles titles to her name, she has slipped to 40 but had the measure of Stosur in the first set.
Coached by husband Zhang Yu, she executed her favourite backhand shot with precision to rattle the Australian who has long struggled in front of her home crowd.
The set went with serve until Zheng got the crucial break in the seventh game. Stosur immediately broke back but got broken once again to put the Chinese 5-4 in front and set up a nerve-tingling final game.
Stosur saved seven set points, including one rally of 28 shots, in a game that lasted more than 12 minutes before she sent an easy overhead volley long to hand Zheng the set in 54 minutes.
But cheered on by a boisterous crowd on Rod Laver Arena, Stosur came out for the second set fired up and broke Zheng in the fourth game en route to levelling the match.
Now in her rhythm, Stosur got an early break in the third but Zheng refused to wilt and under pressure, it was the Australian who caved in meekly to miss out on a third round clash with 18th seeded German Julia Goerges. – Sapa-AFP