Sam denies sceptics to take a big scalp
SAMANTHA Stosur's matches should come with a warning, like a ride at the Brisbane Ekka.
"Not for those with heart conditions or high blood-pressure."
Say what you will about Stosur, but she likes to keep the crowd guessing.
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Her 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) win over Germany's former world No.1 Angelique Kerber in the first round of the Brisbane International at the Queensland Tennis Centre was the 2011 US Open winner at her exciting, frustrating, astonishing best.
Admitting in the lead up to the event that, at 35, this may be one of her last tilts at her hometown tournament, Stosur - ranked 98 in the world - flew out of the blocks against the 2018 Wimbledon champion.
She served to take the first game to love in just two minutes and then broke world No. 18 Kerber, 31, to race to a 2-0 lead.
"Come on Sammy," shouted her coach Rennae Stubbs as the large crowd packing the Centre's Stadium Court got behind the local girl.
For the past nine years Stosur has carried the hopes of Australian tennis fans on her well-muscled shoulders, and more often than not the weight has proved too great.
But now, with world No.1 and fellow Queenslander Ashleigh Barty doing the heavy lifting in the public expectation department, Stosur is in a position to fly under the radar.
And for all of two games it looked like she was going to do just that.
Which was when, as they have so often in the past, the wheels looked like falling off - a double fault handing the break straight back.
"Well," a collective thought went around the stands. "It was nice while it was lasted."
But Stosur denied the sceptics, not for the last time in the enthralling match, pushing further ahead and serving an ace to take it to 5-2.
Happy days, but with Stosur you can never feel too safe. When Kerber held serve to take it to 4-5 one woman could be heard speaking for many when she whispered, "Oh-ooh".
Serving for the set Stosur managed just one point before Kerber reeled off three straight games.
Again, at 5-6 Stosur wouldn't lie down, holding serve to take it to a tie-breaker in which she was soon trailing 1-5.
If anyone was crazy enough to place a bet on Stosur at that stage they could have made a nice profit. Turning back the clock she won six straight points to take the tie-breaker and the set.
Who would have thought? Apart from Stosur and her coach Stubbs, that is?
In the past in such a situation - especially here in Brisbane - she might have tensed up and lost the match. Not this time. In fact, she claimed afterwards that she had even "forgotten" she was down 1-5.
So what did she put the Zen-like change of attitude down to? Was it the emergence of Barty stealing the spotlight? The fact that with the men's ATP Cup hogging the main arena she was playing on a back court?
Maybe all of the above.
"That's the way I want to be all the time on court," she said. "I put more pressure on myself than anyone else.
"I know what I'm capable of and what I can do but sometimes I just want it too badly. That's when you get hamstrung and don't play like you want to.
"Today I felt like I stayed relaxed and composed. I did all the things that I want to do all the time that don't always come off."
The second set was less dramatic, but just as gutsy from Stosur.
Again there were times when she looked about to crack, again she held on and forced a tie-break.
This time there was no breakaway by Kerber. The best lead she took was 3-2 before Stosur drew level and pulled away, winning 6-4 on the first of two match-points.
It was only the second time in six years that she has advanced past the first round in Brisbane.
Not that her home-town fans didn't have faith.
Well, maybe not all of them. As one woman could be heard exclaiming as Stosur pumped her fist in triumph.
"She won. Oh my gosh."