Stosur Clears Opening Hurdle

Samantha Stosur gained revenge on her Hobart conqueror, Klara Zakopalova, with a first round win at the Australian Open.

Published January 13, 2014 12:13

Stosur Clears Opening Hurdle
Samantha Stosur

MELBOURNE, Australia - In her pre-tournament press conference over the weekend, Samantha Stosur claimed that her recent loss to Klara Zakopalova would have no bearing on their first round meeting at the Australian Open.

And so it proved.

Shorn of the nerves that have accompanied her performances in Melbourne so often in the past, Stosur came out aggressively and maintained this attitude throughout, eventually running out a 63 64 victor.

As with any match involving the Australian No.1 at Melbourne Park, it was not without the odd hairy moment - she frittered away an early lead and trailed 4-1 in the second set.

However, unlike previous years, Stosur refused to become flustered. She remained patient in the baseline exchanges, biding her time before the opportunity to attack arose.

"I knew she was going to hit some winners and she was going to play some really good points," Stosur said. "I also knew if I didn't have a shot and I kind of stayed in there, used my slice - I didn't think she liked too much in Hobart - then I was going to be able to get myself back in the point even if I was down.

"Like I said, she was getting some winners, but I also had to think I was going to be able to hang in there as well until I got an opportunity to try and hit a winner or do something I really wanted to do."

In their meeting in Hobart, Stosur never fully recovered from a sluggish start, and it was clear from the outset that she would not be caught napping twice. A break in the opening game provided the early encouragement and despite a mid-set wobble she struck again in the seventh game before taking the opener in 36 minutes.

At the start of the second, Zakopalova began to find her range on the forehand wing, attacking the Stosur backhand with gusto and racing into a 3-0 lead.

Yet, just as Zakopalova appeared to have gained a foothold in the match, she slipped. As the temperatures began to rise, the Czech began to wilt, forcing her to seek refuge in the shade on Rod Laver. And as her energy vanished, so did the lead, as a merciless Stosur clinically reeled off the final five games of the match.

"It's a really good feeling, obviously. The first hurdle is quite often the hardest," Stosur said. "To come out and play, play a pretty decent match, I'm very pleased. A bit of a relief there as well. Very happy to get through and obviously rectify what happened a few days ago is also very pleasing.

"First one's down. Doesn't mean I'm looking further ahead. I have to focus on this next match and take my second round just as seriously, just as importantly. That's what I'll do."

Life will not get any easier for Stosur; in the second round she meets the in-form Tsvetana Pironkova, who followed up her unexpected title in Sydney with a 63 62 win over Sílvia Soler-Espinosa.

"To go through qualies and win a tournament as tough as what Sydney means she must be playing very well," Stosur said on Pironkova's recent form. "I kind of know her game a little bit. We played each other in the Tournament of Champions.

"But that was completely different circumstances - court was indoor, very slow, gritty court in Sofia. It's going to be a different ball game. I know what to expect a little bit, but she must be in pretty decent form to have gone through and have won Sydney."

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