Saturday, June 5, 2010

We have all heard the rumour that Australians are convicts. Well, now there is possible proof with the appearance of Australian tennis star Samantha Stosur in tonight’s French open final against Italy’s Francesca Schiavone. After all, if Stosur pulls this one off, she will have stolen a title she wasn’t meant to win.
Seeded seventh, she first disposed of comeback queen Justine Henin in the fourth round. The Belgium pocket battleship with the superstar backhand found that one mighty weapon does not beat a player with double the mighty weaponry in Stosur’s scud like serve and a forehand that does its utmost to impersonate a bunker busting bomb. By the middle of the third set,Henin looked like she had not only lost the match, but also any semblance of confidence in her ability to fight back, such was Stosur's formidable display of power hitting.
Next, in the quarter-final she took on the prowess of the fully laden destroyer in the form of world number one Serena Williams. It took her well into the third set to sink the enemy destroyer(with all this talk of ships and sinking the enemy, perhaps Stosur should shift to France. After all, the French do so enjoy blowing boats up), but in the end Stosur was the one who held her nerve and finished the stronger of the two.
Which was somewhat of a surprise when one reminisces on her matchup with Williams at the Australian Open last January. Stosur had looked out of her depth and there was a suspicion that in the big matches she did not have the self belief in her ability to compete with the top players such as the Williams’s sisters and Henin.
But that somehow has all changed in the space of four months. Which, it must be said, is a giant fillip for the Women’s game. With the retirement of the likes of Graf, Davenport, Capriati and Hingis, the depth in the women’s game has been sadly lacking in recent years. Until Stosur lifted her game to another level, you could almost be guaranteed that, depending on the surface, the William’s sisters and Henin would prevail in the slams.
Of the others currently in the top ten, no one gives any confidence that the above mentioned will have their domination of the sport impeded. Danara Safina, who has the talent, can always be counted on to choke when the pressure is ratcheted up. Jelena Janovic and Elena Dementiavia always give the impression that jumping into a raging torrent of molten lava would be the preferred option if given a choice between that and being in the somewhat tense scenery that is a grand slam final.
With these three the best of the rest, realistically Stosur is the most likely to consistently challenge the William’s sisters.
Stosur’s improvement is not just a testament to her shot making. The twenty-six year old has always had the shots to compete with the best. She has now added a much needed veneer to her game in the form of strong mental fortitude. Previously she would win a big match then for no apparent reason succumb easily in the next round. Which, can only come back to a lack of self belief.
Those days, it appears, are behind her though, as she now seems to have added a goodly amount of that much needed mental toughness to her armoury.
Which will have many in the tennis world wondering whether she could now be a potential world number one.
And one can only hope she does, as it is a privilege to watch a player such as Stosur, who has worked her way up the rankings through pure hard work, grab hold of success and make the most of it.

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