The first day of qualifying at Roland Garros started well for the Aussies with the men’s 18th seed Aleksander Vukic proving too good for…
Sam Stosur’s final shot at Australian Open singles glory is over but it came after a remarkable come-from-behind victory over American Robin Anderson in the first round.
Her 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 win had all the ups and downs of a Stosur match that we’ve become accustomed to but this one was different for one reason. Expectation.
SAM'S NOT GOING ANYWHERE YET ❤️????????
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 18, 2022
10-years ago it was a much different story. She had all the expectations in the world on her shoulders after winning the US Open in 2011.
Instead of celebrating that achievement it was more a case of ‘what can she do now?’ and ‘What can she do at home?’ It was as if a US Open didn’t mean anything to the Australian public.
The following summer in Australia, the broadcaster at the time – Channel 7 – went into overdrive about Stosur’s chances.
Channel 7 were licking their lips with the prospect of an Aussie making it deep into the second week.
Stosur was the No.6 seed in 2012.
The response to her first-round straight-sets loss to Romanian Sorana Cirstea was savage. It was as if Stosur had cheated Australia by losing.
“AUSTRALIAN OPEN SHOCKER”
“STOSUR FALTERS AGAIN”
“STOSUR FALLS FLAT”
Stosur admitted to being nervous before the match and it was one of the low points of her career fuelled by media, public and her own high expectations.
“I am extremely disappointed,” Stosur said after the devastating loss.
“There’s probably nothing greater than my own expectation. I really, really wanted to do well here and over the summer and I did everything I could to try to give myself a good opportunity. But it obviously didn’t happen.”
This was the crux of the Stosur issue.
Like any professional tennis player she wanted to perform at her best in front of her home fans but there were so many distractions that it proved too much.
Today against Anderson she played with freedom. Just imagine if she didn’t have that expectation 10 years ago. It most likely would have been a different story.
Before Ash Barty came along Stosur was THE great hope that Australians expected to do well each summer.
With Lleyton Hewitt’s slow decline after his 2005 Aus Open finals appearance, Stosur was in the spotlight even more.
When reflecting on the difficulties of playing the Australian Open Stosur realised that her achievements were actually incredible and that for whatever reason the Australian Open became the be-all and end-all.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t had my best results on home soil over the years,” Stosur told AthletesVoice in 2019.
“Traditionally, the public’s attention has been on the Aussie summer of tennis and Wimbledon each year, and the bulk of my success has come at Roland Garros and the US Open, as well as other big tournaments outside of Australia.
“I was reading an article that listed a whole bunch of my achievements throughout my career and I thought, ‘Wow, even I need to give myself more credit for what I have been able to do over so many years’.”
“It kind of took me by surprise, reading it, because I think when you’re living in the moment and you’re still playing, you almost don’t allow yourself to completely appreciate what you’ve been able to do because you’re always striving for more, and you always want more.”
Her longevity to play on the tour for as long as she has is something to be proud of. Ask any pro player how hard it is to actually stay on the WTA Tour, let alone stay inside the top 100 and they’ll all tell you what a gruelling, lifestyle it is especially as you age.
Let’s not forget just how good she was and is at doubles, winning three out of the four grand slam titles and finishing as a runner-up three times at the French.
Sam Stosur is Australia’s second-best female tennis player in the past 20 years. If Ash Barty wasn’t around she’d still be carrying the weight of the nation this week. Thankfully for Sam, there’s less focus on her actual tennis and more on Sam as a person and what she’s achieved for the sport in this country.
It was Stosur’s 20th and final Australian Open and hopefully, she now has the admiration she deserves from the Australian public.