When Same Stosur was asked whether she had “choked” during her loss to China’s Jie Zheng last night, she gave the headline writers the tag they were looking for.
It was a question Stosur knew was coming and it took just minutes to surface.
With a sigh she said that the media could put whatever word we wanted on the loss, but after throwing away a 5-2 lead in the deciding set of a grand slam match, it “probably is a bit of a choke, yeah.”
Jie Zheng has been Stosur’s tormentor this summer.
Despite being ranked in the 40s, she still managed to knock the local hope out in the first round of the Sydney International just before the Australian Open.
Stosur had already been tipped out of the Brisbane International in the first round by Swede Sofia Arvidsson and the defeat in Sydney did little to silence the questions relating to her ability to perform in front of a home crowd.
In an honest news conference last night, Stosur admitted that “crazy things” started popping into her head when Zheng started fighting back. The 28-year-old even went as far as to say the defeat was 100 per cent mental.
While it’s refreshing to hear such an open appraisal of a performance from an athlete, unless the admission leads to a resolution it’s useless.
The most troubling aspect of this whole situation is that it keeps repeating itself. Stosur is a player with immense talent and limitless potential. She’s also not mentally fragile all of the time.
Nobody beats Serena Williams in the final of the US Open at Flushing Meadows without having a fair degree of composure.
So, why does it happen at home?
During the cringe-worthy closing stages of the match, where Stosur lost five straight games to seal her exit, she seemed to have lost the owner’s manual.
There was no apparent re-boot process being followed, just a spiral of errors leading to a seemingly inevitable downfall.
Now, that’s understandable if this type of collapse was unforseen.
But Stosur admitted she started thinking about not losing rather than hitting winners.
The red flags were popping up all over the place, but the path to recovery was non-existent. That is the biggest issue.
It’s not about the label or the perfect sound-bite. Nobody enjoys seeing an Australian athlete self-destruct like Stosur did yesterday.
Previously, anyone pointing out her periodic lack of composure was apparently willing her to lose. In fact, the opposite is true.
People highlight the collapse because they see a player who is capable of running deep into the draw at every tournament.
Athletes are always asked what they can take from a loss. Some point to a good pass, kick or shot depending on the sport.
Hopefully, this defeat highlights the need for a more efficient re-boot process. If one is already in place, her camp need to start drafting another one.
In one sense, athletes who compete in individual sports have it so much tougher, as there’s no-one to blame except themselves. But Stosur is too good a player to endure this continual comedy of errors on home soil.
What was last night labelled a “choke” should lead to clarity in the future.