A year ago Stosur came onto the grounds of Melbourne Park on the heels of her US Open 2011 victory with the pressure of a nation on her shoulders. After crashing out in the first round, the Brisbane native conjured up a healthy 2012 campaign, keeping her ranking inside the top 10.
Strengths: Stosur’s explosive, kicking serve is the weapon that sets her apart from the rest of the field more than any other part of her game. Along with Serena Williams, she has the most feared serve in women’s tennis. Combining that delivery with a thick, heavy forehand is what wins the 28 year old a majority of her points as she moves her opponents out wide and fires a ball into the open court. She pairs her serve-and-forehand combo with a solid all-court game – she’s comfortable at net – and is as good a mover as anyone.
Weaknesses: As displayed by her shock loss to Sorana Cirstea in the first round here a year ago, Stosur can still be plagued by nerves. While the Australian crowd is behind her, she can come onto court looking as though she has the entire nation on her shoulders. Technically, Stosur tends to come off her forehand and miss hit it when she’s tight, pulling the ball long or shanking it wide. And for Sam, there’s little of a Plan B option: it’s either she’s on or she’s off – little room for anything in between.
Opportunities: What wouldn’t Australia give to see Stosur in the latter stages of the AO? Making her 11th appearance here, Stosur has been to the fourth round just twice: in 2006 and 2010. At the US Open in September, Stosur played one of the matches of the year against eventual finalist Victoria Azarenka, losing in a third-set tiebreak in a high-quality affair. What Stosur has the chance to do here is not only play well in front of the home crowd, but solidify as a serious contender for the 2013 season.
Threats: Along with her nerves, Stosur faces difficulty against the bigger hitters of the women’s tour, who don’t avail her the time to set up for her topspin-laiden groundstrokes. Stosur is a combined 5-24 against Azarenka, Maria Sharpova and Serena Williams, three of the hardest strikers of the ball at the game’s top-ranked players. But the danger for Stosur is that if she has a shabby start against any player – Cirstea’s the cautionary tale – she is at risk to implode during any point of the tournament.
Mary Joe Fernandez, former world No. 4 and tennis analyst:
"I love Sam’s game. I love the way she runs around her big, heavy, looping forehand. She can kick her serve with big, heavy spin like no one else in the game. It was tough for her last year coming off her US Open win; she felt a lot of pressure. [Amelie] Mauresmo had the same issue at the French Open. I don’t think she feels that sort of pressure this year. But in Australia, the court isn’t that fast, so she can hit her forehand cleaner. I think this is going to be her best Aussie ever. People won’t be as critical of her. Maybe she can show her best. She’s the second one who plays Serena with no fear [behind Petra Kvitova]. Serena has difficultly returning Sam’s serve and with Sam’s forehand, she matches Serena well and definitely isn’t intimidated."