By Melinda Samson, Special for Tennis Grandstand
Sam Stosur had quite a year in 2011 by acheiving a career-high singles ranking of four in February and defeating Serena Williams to win the US Open in September. Since then, Stosur has struggled reaching only one semifinal and two finals since her maiden slam title. Does she have it in her to mount a surprise run at this year’s French Open?
Stosur’s maiden Grand Slam title was a massive achievement, making her the first Australian woman to win the US Open final since Margaret Court Smith in 1973, and the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam final since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.
And it wasn’t a straightforward ride to victory. Stosur proved her strength and stamina by defeating Nadia Petrova in a third round match that turned out to be the longest ever US Open women’s match in the open era, lasting 3 hours and 16 minutes.
Then, during the final, Stosur calmly played on after Serena’s rant against the chair umpire, un-rattled by the incident that later cost Serena a $2000 fine.
There’s something special about Sam
As well as being an elite tennis player and Grand Slam champion, Stosur is also a great Australian. She is supremely fit, works incredibly hard, is tanned, smiley, humble and let’s face it, she can pull off cool sunnies on court like not many other players can.
Scott Draper, Manager of Developmental Tennis for Tennis Australia, who partnered with Stosur to win the 2005 Australian Open Mixed Doubles final, summed up what makes Sam’s style of play special:
“Sam works extremely hard and is physically strong, which gives her an incredible advantage in being able to overpower her counterparts.
Sam’s point of difference is that she’s not the typical female tennis player. She has angular swings, a heavy forehand, one of the best serves in the women’s game and she can slice. This style of play takes her opponents out of their comfort zone and away from what they typically see.”
An early loss at the 2012 Australian Open
A great Australian trait is that we love sport and we love an Aussie winner. So when Stosur played in Australia this January, the burden of expectation from the home crowd was enormous, and ultimately proved to be too big for Stosur to bear.
Playing in Australia was Stosur’s kryptonite. What should have been her home ground advantage turned into a bonus for her opponents.
A second round loss at the Brisbane International was followed by first round losses at the APIA International inSydneyand the Australian Open in Melbourne.
After the Australian Open loss Stosur said on her blog:
“There’s nothing probably more than my expectation. I really, really wanted to do well here and over the summer…… I did everything I could to try and give myself a good opportunity. It obviously didn’t happen.”
Stosur’s results since the Australian Open
Then February came, WTA tennis moved to other parts of the world and the kryptonite of the Australian public’s expectations lost its power.
Stosur played Fed Cup for Australia against Switzerland where two wins boosted her confidence. After the wins, Stosur said on her blog:
“You want to win as many matches as possible to erase anything negative and it does not matter the opposition, it is always good to win.”
Here’s a summary of Stosur’s singles results since the Australian Open:
- Qatar: reached the final of the WTA Qatar Total Open and was defeated by Victoria Azarenka
- Dubai: made it to the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and was defeated by Jelena Jankovic
- Indian Wells: defeated by Nadia Petrova in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open
- Miami: defeated by Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open
- Charleston: made the semi final of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston and was defeated by Serena Williams
- Stuttgart: made the quarter finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, and was defeated by Maria Sharapova
- Madrid: made the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open and was defeated by Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka
- Rome: was defeated by Venus Williams in the third round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
Next up, the French Open
The French Open starts on Sunday, May 27th. It will be two slams after the highest of Stosur’s highs and one slam after what is probably amongst the lowest of her lows.
We know Stosur can play incredible tennis and after making the French Open final in 2010 we’ve seen what she is capable of at Roland Garros.
Stosur recently displayed her clay “A” game with two cracker Fed Cup wins against Germany in Stuttgart in April, helping Australia get back into the 2013 World Group.
I have high hopes for Stosur at the French Open, while at the same time I’m doing my best not to have expectations! She is seeded sixth and will play her first round match against Elena Baltacha. If Sam progresses through the draw she will potentially play her Round 3 match against Nadia Petrova, Round 4 against Sabine Lisicki and quarter final versus world No.1 Victoria Azarenka.
Follow Tennis Grandstand for updates on Sam Stosur’s progress, as well as other Australian players in the main draw, all throughout the French Open.
Melinda Samson is attending Roland Garros and will be writing updates on Australian players through their trek of the tennis world’s second slam. She also manages the website Grand Slam Gal and is attempting to do the fan version of a tennis grand slam in 2012. Follow her on Twitter for further live updates @GrandSlamGal.