It’s Time For Australia To Get Behind Sam Stosur
Australia has a shooting star right under their noses and they are missing it. Samantha Stosur may be in the top ten in women’s tennis and climbing but the vast majority of the Australian public don’t have a clue. In a country dominated by sports like AFL, rugby league, and cricket, predominately played by men, it is no wonder the Brisbane native has managed to escape much of the public’s attention. Yet Stosur is now the highest ranked Australian female in twenty-five years and Australia’s top tennis player. She certainly demands greater attention than Lleyton Hewitt, who although brave probably won’t win another slam anytime soon, and Bernard Tomic, who has fallen short of his claim that he would win all four Slams by eighteen.
There’s no doubt the 26-year-old blonde is a slow starter. She won her biggest trophy in Charleston this year after a slow climb up the rankings. Stosur had concentrated mainly on doubles in the past, and it wasn’t until 2010 that she made the decision to focus on singles. This decision was likely boosted by the fact that in 2009 she made the semi-finals of Roland Garros, taking out Elena Dementieva and Yanina Wickmayer on the way and finding herself in the top twenty for the first time. She’s hardly looked back. She reached the fourth round of the Australian Open where she fell to Serena Williams and since has won on the clay courts of Charleston and was runner-up in Stuttgart, where she lost to Justine Henin over three sets. Stosur ventures into Roland Garros with the best wining record on clay for 2010: 14 wins to 16 losses. She lost only to Henin and Venus Williams, hardly something to be ashamed of.
If her accomplishments and promise alone don’t provide enough inspiration for the Australian public to change their channels to watch Stosur try to claim her first Slam over the coming fortnight then they should consider the fact that she plays differently to most women. Stosur doesn’t fit the normal mold of poor-service, stunning backhand, a shaky forehand, and a fear of net that most of the other girls on the WTA do. Instead, Stosur thrives where they don’t. Thanks to her doubles days, Stosur is a very capable serve and volleyer with one of the fastest and best serves on the women’s tour. It’s not just her first serve either. Stosur isn’t content to hit a weaker first serve with a bit more spin when her first serve misses, instead she hits a heavy kick serve which is probably the best on the women’s tour. Add to this a ferocious forehand and you have one of the most promising and versatile players to watch. There is no shrieking either, Stosur is every bit a down to earth Aussie girl.
Perhaps that is half the problem with the lack of media attention. Stosur doesn’t talk herself up, in fact this year playing down her chances at Roland Garros despite on her brilliant form in Charleston. “It’s a great lead-up, but nobody’s going to remember who had the most wins before Roland Garros, it’s who wins Roland Garros,” yet at the same time that Australian confidence isn’t lost on her. She says she knows that claiming a Slam is ‘possible’, although she’s quick to state that it might be this year or in five years time. This isn’t the same kind of personality that headline grabbers Hewitt and Tomic have. Stosur is more modest and realistic about her chances and however much we may admire these qualities in a person, she doesn’t say the kind of stuff that will grab the public’s attention. Neither does she fall back on what many other female tennis stars do and pose in bikinis for magazine covers. Stosur isn’t looking for the limelight.
The consequence of this is that Australian tennis suffers. With the media more likely to give attention to a controversial rugby league team or yet another AFL star who has been caught doing cocaine, Stosur slips past the sporting spotlight. The cheering is left to tennis fans who realise her potential and what a unique talent she is in today’s game. Stosur may not have the shrieks or the looks of Maria Sharapova, and she may not have the conversation-starting personality of Hewitt, but Stosur is refrshingly normal. She’s just a down-to-earth girl playing the game she loves day in and day out. It’s not Sam Stosur who is missing out on all the attention, it’s the Australian public. It’s time to wake up, Australia, and see what your new tennis hero has to offer.