It is appropriate Arantxa Rus hails from a town called Monster, in the Netherlands. Twice now the 21-year-old has pulled off monster upsets in the main draw of a Grand Slam. First it was Kim Clijsters at the 2011 French Open; today it was Sam Stosur who was shocked as Rus claimed the 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 victory in a wildly see-sawing encounter on No.1 Court.
Admittedly there was huge pressure for Stosur, the last Australian player in either the men’s or women’s singles draws at Wimbledon, whose big-serving game has somehow never translated to grass. Having progressed to the third round just once in nine previous appearances, the world No. 5 was a first-round loser in the past two years.
Stosur was showing signs of reversing that trend in 2012, allowing Carla Suarez Navarro only four games in their first-round encounter. But after an early break gave her a 2-0 lead against Rus, that dominant form wavered, Stosur dropping serve then surrendering six games in a row to allow her less experienced opponent to gain confidence with a 6-2 first-set win.
It was far from all the young Dutchwoman’s way though. Stosur tackled the second set with new resolve, breaking Rus’s serve in the opening game and maintaining that pattern in another major momentum shift – where Rus had claimed six games in a row to claim the first set, Stosur claimed the next six to take the second in 23 minutes.
Had the Australian maintained momentum – there’s that word again – in the first game of the third set, it could well have been a different story. Stosur was unable to capitalise on three break points on Rus’s serve and in losing some of the decisiveness, the Australian allowed Rus to take charge again. “If you come a break down in the third, it's very hard to come back,” the Dutchwoman later surmised.
Further twists followed, with Stosur clawing back a break in the fifth game, only for Rus to claim yet another break and a 4-2 lead. Stosur withstood some pressure as she held serve for 5-2, then spectacularly saved two match points as her shaky opponent attempted to serve out the match – the first gifted as Rus double-faulted, the next secured with a stunning cross-court backhand that landed just inside the baseline.
It was, however, the last momentum shift and it proved short-lived. Despite holding two game points, the younger player would close it with a sixth and final break of Stosur’s serve after 1hr and 49mins.
Remarkably, grass is far from Rus’s favourite surface. In two appearances, she’d never won a main draw match at Wimbledon and while she recently achieved a career-high world No. 71 ranking after a fourth round French Open run, she relied on the knowledge that Stosur had experienced her own struggles at the All England Club. “I believe before the match that I could win,” she said.
While stopping short of labelling the Stosur victory as bigger than last year’s win over Clijsters in Paris, Rus now has a proven ability to handle both the pressure and her least favourite surface. “For me it was more important to win this match on the grass and believe I can play also good on the grass,” she said.
Even Stosur recognised the positives. “At least this time I feel like I came out and gave myself a chance to win and felt a little more clear with what I wanted to do and tried to stick to those plans rather than going down a few games and panicking,” she said. “The Olympics are coming up and I've got more time to get better on this surface. Next year comes around, you do it again.”