After five consecutive losses on Australian turf, Sam Stosur is going into the Australian Open under intense scrutiny.
It seems everyone has an opinion on why Australia’s highest-ranked woman is not winning, with many already dismissing her chances of holding aloft the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
“I'm hopeful I can turn it around,” Stosur said yesterday. “Sometimes things in tennis can change very quickly. I think it's a matter of keeping at it, keep practicing, doing whatever you can to try to get that good result.
“With all the practice and preparation I've been doing these last two weeks and before it, hopefully it's all going to come together this week for me.”
Stosur knows her opponent on Monday, Chinese Taipei's Kai-Chen Chang, the world no. 84, will present a fierce challenge to open her 13th Australian Open campaign. They have played once, Chang winning in three sets in Osaka late last season.
“She hits the ball pretty flat,” Stosur said. “I'll certainly have to be ready for it. Having played not too long ago, we'll have things pretty fresh in our minds.”
It is understandable that Stosur will have some nerves before the match. In the past six years she has been knocked out of her home Grand Slam four times by lower-ranked opponents. None were more shocking than last year’s first-round loss to Romania’s Sorana Cirstea. The then-world No.59 defeated the 2011 US Open champion in straight sets in front of a stunned crowd on Rod Laver Arena.
“I certainly don't want to go out first round this year,” Stosur said. “It really sucked for a few days watching the rest of the tournament (last year), but I bounced back and still had a pretty good year.
“I think that's one thing I can remember: If it doesn't all go well here, it doesn't mean that everything else is a disaster. I don't want that to happen. I'm going to try my best to have a good result. “
Stosur admitted she has not looked past her round one opponent. It could be a good thing, because looming is a potential round two meeting with China’s Jie Zheng, who beat her in the opening round in Sydney earlier this month.
“I think the first round is the most important hurdle for me at the moment,” she said. “I want to try to get through that. If I do, I'll certainly be ready for whatever comes next. At the moment it's just that first one.”
As for suggestions that the pressure of playing in front of an Australian crowd was too much for her to handle, Stosur was not having a bar of it.
“I do love playing here,” she said. “It's always a nice feeling walking out on court, having the crowd cheering for you between games.
“Me and the other Australians I think are very lucky to have a Grand Slam in our home country that we can really soak it all up and all that. It means you want to do extra well here because you are at home and you know you have all that support.”
Stosur said she was feeling less pressure this year.
“This year I do feel better about things,” she said. “I don't feel as probably uptight or stressed. I think last year I didn't handle it so well.”
Fans in Rod Laver Arena for Monday’s day session will be treated to Stosur’s clash with Chang.
“(I just want to) play well, play to the way I know I'm capable of,” Stosur said. “I think if I can do that, I can have a good result. I'm not setting a particular round or anything. I don't do that here or anywhere.
“I can only control the things I can control. That's what I'm trying to do.”