Sunday, October 16, 2011


Part 4 in our Series of contenders for WTA: Player of the Year. Next week we will look at some other contenders for this prestigious title.

See Part I, II and III.

Winning a Grand Slam is the highlight of many players’ careers. They work hard. Train hard and they sacrifice a lot just to be able to even qualify for a Grand Slam and even getting to the second week of a Major is a really big accomplishment. When you come from circumstances that are not the usual places, i.e. country clubs or you do not have a big name trainer, or you do not have the money or the looks that comes with being a protégé, when you finally win a Grand Slam, you are showered with so many expectations and money and so much is expected of you that some players falter while others use it as an opportunity to shine.

For years Samantha Jane Stosur, a player from a country that has provided Grand Slam champions in the same way that many others have not, was known more for her doubles prowess, moreso than her singles career. In late 2007 Stosur was struck down with Lime disease, a condition that left her off the Tour for a time. When she returned in 2008 she decided to concentrate on her singles career, rather than doubles. The going was tough and she took her losses with a stoicness that has always defined her. In the face of adversity she would have a semblance of a smile on her face.

In 2010, Stosur went on a run on the red clay of Europe, the likes of which had never been seen before the great Justine Henin. In getting to the finals of Roland Garros, she beat in succession, Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic. It was a masterclass in topspin, big serving and playing your best tennis when under pressure. Unfortunately for Stosur she came across another player who was playing with complete and utter abandon. She would lose in straight sets to Francesca Schiavone of Italy in what I consider one of the best tennis matches I have ever seen and what is sure to be a classic that needs to be shown on rain delays.

After that defeat, most players would have gone away, but not Stosur. She persevered, hired herself a sports psychologist and went back to what she did best. There were no titles and her losing streak would see her fall outside the top 10 for a brief moment in 2011, but it is said that “what is for you cannot be unfor you” and watching her performance in the 2011 US Open final against Serena Williams, you have to think that it was her destiny that she would win a Grand Slam.

Stosur faced insurmountable challenges during her 2 week stint in Flushing. She played some of her best tennis when under pressure. She came up big when she needed to against Nadia Petrova, Maria Kirilenko and against Angelique Kerber. These names are not Grand Slam champions. They are not players who you would put your money on, but Stosur struggled mightily against these players but she came through. When she got to the final, she faced a player who had endured a lot since her last Grand Slam title. Serena had just beaten her a few weeks ago decisively in the Toronto finals and here they were once again. This time, Stosur would do what she needed to do when it mattered most.

That stoicness that has defined her career was put on full display. Her serve worked. Her groundstroke worked. It helped that the person on the other side of the net did not seem to turn up for work that day, but in saying that, it would have taken away from the shine of Stosur’s victory. She played amazingly well and fully deserved her victory.

Stosur’s year has not been kind to her. She had a losing streak heading into Flushing and apart from that title, she has yet to win another this season, having just lost to Marion Bartoli in the final of Osaka. She has qualified for the Year End Championships but one has to wonder just how she will deal with the expectations that have been placed on her now that she has won a Grand Slam title.

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