The mixed fortunes of Australia’s golden girl, Samantha Stosur

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Samantha Stosur was the first seed to crash out of Wimbledon this year, falling in straight sets to Yanina Wickmayer barely 69 minutes into opening day of the Championships.

Yet she still ended up being the last player to leave the All England Club two weeks lat­er, with a mixed doubles trophy in tow, after triumphing alongside Nenad Zimonjic in the match that concluded a fortnight of incred­ible action at Wimbledon 2014.

Agony on day one and ecstasy on day 13.

Such bizarre contrast has become typically associated with Stosur.

The Australian with the magnificent biceps was considered a doubles specialist until she shocked Serena Williams in the US Open singles final three years ago.

That grand slam title was just the third singles trophy win of her career.

She’s managed to add just two more since then – in Osaka and Carlsbad last season.

Since winning the US Open in 2011, Stosur has suffered first week exits in eight of the subsequent 11 majors.

Despite her impressive kick serves, huge groundstrokes and unmatchable physique, the 30-year-old from Brisbane failed to domi­nate the tour following her singles break­through.

Her seasons usually consist of a series of mediocre performances interrupted by brief moments of magic, but nothing is as baffling as Stosur’s lack of success at Wimbledon. 

She’s won the mixed doubles title there twice, has been doubles runner-up three times, yet has never advanced past the third round at SW19 in any of her 12 appearances in the singles.

It is a record she describes as both “annoying” and “frus­trating” especially since her game, theoreti­cally, can be easily adjusted to grass.

“I like coming to Wimbledon, I like play­ing here,” Stosur told Sport360° following her mixed doubles victory. “Even the lead-up grass court tournament – I think I made the semis of Eastbourne three times, so that’s winning three or four consecutive matches on a surface that’s exactly the same.

“It definitely is frustrating to not be able to put it together here because I feel like I’m capable of better results that I’ve been able to have. Obviously there’s something going wrong. It’s a tricky one. Certain parts of my game really do match up well and then other parts I really struggle with. Just trying to flat­ten out my forehand and not necessarily try and hit with so much spin and try to stay up the court more.

“It’s disappointing. I’ve had great doubles results here. So I know it’s there and by the time the end of Wimbledon is coming, I’m timing the ball great in the grass and every­thing feels so easy but at the start it’s a little more difficult.”

Her win with Zimonjic was exactly what she needed and it helped soften the blow of her first round letdown against Wickmayer.

“The singles was obviously quite disap­pointing. I played the first match on Monday morning at 11:30 and that campaign was over pretty quick, so to then be playing the last match of the tournament on Centre Court and walk away with a winner’s trophy is a great feeling,” she added.

“So it certainly boost the confidence and I guess the overall feeling for what I’ll have for Wimbledon when I leave.”

Stosur had arrived at Wimbledon having just parted ways with her coach of just seven months Miles Maclagan – who had previously worked with Andy Murray.

It was the second time in less than a year the Aussie had taken such a drastic action on the eve of a grand slam.

Right before the US Open last season, Stosur had ended her coaching relationship with long-time mentor David Taylor.

She was shocked by 17-year-old Victoria Duval in the first round of the US Open a cou­ple of days later.

It appears Stosur’s timing might not be her forte but she explains they were both decisions she felt she had to make.

“It’s not something that I’ve planned at the time ‘oh there’s another grand slam, what’s going to happen now?’” she said. “They were two very different circumstances. I had been with David for nearly six years and I think we both kind of felt the end was coming for a little while and it just so happened that it all came to the end when it did.

“Which, in hindsight, was unfortunate timing but I think also when you feel like something’s finished and something’s over it’s hard to go into an event thinking that this is going to be the last one as well.

“This time with Miles, again for me it just didn’t feel like my tennis was going the way that I felt like it could go or should be going and again it’s not like you want to go into a grand slam without someone but if you feel like the time is up then I can’t go into an event just going along for the ride.

“I’m not planning on doing it again by any means but it’s just the way it’s been.

“Whether I did it then or didn’t do it then, who knows what the result was going to be?”

Stosur will take a few weeks off now before preparing for the US Open by playing Stan­ford, Montreal and Cincinnati.

Petra Kvitova and Li Na were – like Stosur – first-time grand slam champions in 2011 and both have managed to add to their tally this season with the former grabbing the crown at Wimbledon and the Chinese reigning in Australia.

Stosur is hoping she too can have a repeat success in New York next month.

“I think it’s a good omen. So hopefully I can say I’ll win another one (this year) like I did in 2011,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a hard sport and it’s hard to back it up week after week and year after year and I think that’s why the Serenas and the Rogers and the Nadals and Novaks and all those players are so amazing.

“Because they consecutively do it year after year, every tournament, every grand slam.

“So it does certainly still give you that boost. It’s nice to see Petra win a second slam. I real­ly respect her as a player, she’s a very nice girl and I like to see her do well.

“So seeing her bounce back three years later hopefully gives me some sort of good chance or good feeling going into the US Open.”

The Gold Coast resident, who has dropped to No18 in the world, says she’s targeting a return to the top-10 “as soon as possible” and she feels she has a good chance to rise again during the US Open Series.

There’s still the matter of finding a coach, which she admits is no easy task.

“There’s probably a handful of coaches that you might want to think about. They’ve prob­ably all got jobs. It’s one of those things. It’s not an easy thing to find that right and ‑that you think is going to be that perfect match,” she admits.

“I’m not a player I feel like needs to be told to work hard or do the hours. I like all the training, I love practicing.

“So all these things come easy, I guess it’s just having that right guidance to make that little bit of a difference.”

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Djokovic and Becker finally find their mojo

Eleanor Crooks 05:21 08/07/2014
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Take a bow: Djokovic and Kvitova at the Wimbledon Championships Winners Ball.

Novak Djokovic’s Wimbledon win was not just the sweetest of his seven grand slam trophies but also vindication of his decision to hire Boris Becker as head coach.

Djokovic’s appointment of the three-time Wimbledon champion in December was the most surpris­ing of the spate of former super­stars coming back into the game.

Unlike Roger Federer, who hired Stefan Edberg as a part-time adviser to work alongside regu­lar coach Severin Luthi, Djokovic made Becker his main coach.

Marian Vajda, with whom Djok­ovic had won all his senior titles, would instead fill the role of part-time coach.

The partnership got off to an inauspicious start when Djokovic failed to win a fourth-consecutive Australian Open title, a quarter-nal loss to Stan Wawrinka his earli­est at a grand slam for four seasons.

Djokovic did not win a title until his first tournament back with Vajda in Indian Wells in March, and he won again two weeks later with the Slovak in his corner after Becker underwent hip surgery.

It was clear all was not entirely well when Vajda accompanied the team to Rome, which had not been in the schedule, and Djokovic won the title again.

The Serbian turned to Becker to try to give him the edge in grand slam finals again after a losing run and at the All England Club, with Vajda back home, it all fell into place as he defeated Federer in five sets.

Djokovic admitted there had been difficulties, saying: “You can’t expect the relationship to start off right away with a grand slam.

“Obviously because of the differ­ence in character and approach, it took time to get that understanding going and the right chemistry.

“The last couple of months we were very successful, and Marian Vajda contributed to that. It wasn’t part of the schedule for Marian to be in Rome but I considered that tournament to be a turning point in my relationship with Boris because Marian graciously accepted to be there and spend time with Boris.

“We won that tournament, the three of us and that was the time when I started feeling much closer to Boris and understood what mes­sage he’s trying to convey to me.

“There were a few things he said that were important but most of all is the mental toughness and the self belief. He believes in my game, he knows that I have the game to win this tournament and I just needed to hang in there and stay tough regardless of what I go through on the court.”

Djokovic felt Sunday’s win was the best of his 14 grand slam finals but, as great as his tennis was, it was the 27-year-old’s mental strength that really shone through.

Having won only one of his previ­ous six grand slam finals and none of the last three, there could not have been a bigger test than having to come through a deciding set hav­ing served for victory in the fourth and seen a match point slip away.

But Djokovic kept believing and, after saving a break point in the seventh game, turned the match back in his favour to clinch a second Wimbledon title.

Andy Murray screamed at him­self in a bathroom mirror before the fifth set of his 2012 US Open final against Djokovic and credited the moment with helping him refo­cus, and his rival took a leaf out of the same book.

“It wasn’t about where I was but about what I went through in this moment,” said Djokovic.

“I had this positive encourage­ment to say to myself, even though you go through different emotions during such an important match and there are times when you have doubts.

“When you start fighting them that’s the biggest fight that you can have. That’s what I experienced and I managed to have my conviction stronger than my doubts and man­aged to push myself the very last step to win the trophy.”

Federer is back up to number three in the rankings but the number the Swiss really wanted was a record eighth Wimbledon title and 18th grand slam.

There is no doubt he is playing well enough to add to his vast haul but, with his 33rd birthday a month away, he knows he may never come closer.

Nevertheless the Swiss star leaves London with positive feel­ings, saying: “I’m very happy to see that with feeling normal I can pro­duce a performance like I did the last two weeks.

“That clearly makes me believe that this was just a stepping stone to many more great things in the future.”

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IPTL tickets go on sale for Dubai leg

Barnaby Read 14:31 07/07/2014
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Serving up a treat: Caroline Wozniacki will represent Dubai's UAE Royals franchise in the IPTL.

Tickets for the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) finale in Dubai have today been released on general sale.

Prices for the conclusion of the first season of the exhibition event range from Dhs67.50 to Dhs715.50.

Held over three days in December (Thursday, 11 to Friday, 13), each day's play will consist of two matches at Dubai's Hamdan Sports Complex with the league's first winning team crowned on the Friday.

Participating in the tournament will be four franchises from Asian cities – Mumbai, Bangkok, Singapore and Dubai. 

Each will be represented by some of the best players in the world both past and present.

Newly crowned Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic will be leading Dubai's UAE Royals franchise, whose roster is completed by Caroline Wozniacki, Goran Ivanisevic, Janko Tipsarevic, Nenad Zimonjic, Martina Hingis and Malek Jaziri. 

Starting in Singapore (November 28 – 30), the tournament then heads to Bangkok (December 2 – 4) and Mumbai (December 7 – 9) before the curtain closing Dubai leg.

For those wanting to purchase tickets or gain more information on how to do so, visit: http://www.ticketmaster.ae/artist/946397?cities=75002

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