Best form not far off for Sam
Sam Stosur believes her best form may not be far off as she gears up for a busy month of tennis spanning two continents.
The world No.17 is in Hong Kong ahead of tonight’s World Tennis Day exhibition match against reigning Australian Open champion Li Na, and will then head to the United States for back-to-back spring hardcourt events in Indian Wells and Miami.
“From Hong Kong I go straight to Indian Wells and Miami, then I play Charleston, so yeah the next five weeks or so will hopefully be very busy,” she said with a laugh.
Despite a less-than-ideal swing through the Middle East, the Australian believes that she’s hitting the ball well and that it’s just a matter of time before that form translates to the match court.
In Doha, Stosur lost in the second round to little-known Jana Cepelova, before being taken down in three tight sets in her opening match against highly-rated youngster Annika Beck. Softening the blow in Dubai was a spirited run to the doubles semifinals with Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta.
Her singles losses took her 2014 win-loss record to a nonetheless impressive 8-4, one of her best starts to a season in recent years.
“For sure the Middle East wasn’t what I was hoping for but overall I actually feel like I’m hitting the ball well and on court I’m feeling good, you’ve just got to win,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Hopefully that means the rest of it is not too far off, and I guess that’s what I’ve really got to knuckle down on and improve for when I’m in the States.
“During those matches (such as against Beck) you’ve got to put people away when you win the first set, so I guess it’s just that last little bit that I’ve got to improve at the moment and hopefully I can do that in the next few weeks.”
Stosur’s confidence despite her recent results partly stems from a vastly improved performance during the Australian summer.
Once considered a time on the tennis calendar when she froze in the face of public expectation and exposure – and left Australia feeling uncertain about her game – the 29-year-old was far more relaxed when she took to the courts Down Under.
Although she didn’t win a match at the Hopman Cup, she played solid tennis in losing to three quality opponents – Eugenie Bouchard, Flavia Pennetta and Agnieszka Radwanksa – who all reached at least the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
She then clawed her way through to the semifinals in Hobart thanks to some confidence-boosting three-set wins and then enjoyed her best result at Melbourne Park in three years with a trip to the last 32; she described her eventual loss to Ana Ivanovic as “one of those days where you’ve got to shake hands and say ‘too good’.”
Also helping is her flourishing partnership with coach Miles Maclagan.
Having worked together now for three months, Stosur believes they make a good match.
“He’s quite relaxed and pretty chilled out a lot of the time, but when you get on court it is intense, the sessions are great and you certainly feel like you get a lot done,” she said.
“I think January was really good for him to finally be able to see me play some matches; after playing matches is where you can really probably try and improve those specific things on the practice court.
“He came to Dubai and we’ll meet up again in Indian Wells. It’s been really good; I’ve enjoyed the time on court with him. I think he’s really knowledgeable about tennis in general and more specifically about my tennis now, so I think we’re both working towards the same things and on the same page which is obviously what you want.”
Stosur and Maclagan are specifically working on the technical and tactical side of the 2011 US Open champion’s game.
Although Stosur admitted that her game was not going to change much at this stage of her career, she said there were always tweaks to be made that could assist her in getting the most out of her already-impressive game.
“We spend a lot of time working on my serve, especially the serves I don’t feel I’m quite as good at or consistent with … just little technical things to try and help my serve and for me to feel more comfortable with that,” she explained.
“And just in general, I’m always trying to work on moving forward and coming to the net a little more; that’s something I’ve been trying to do for the last couple of years but you know you’ve really at some point got to knuckle down and do that (laughter).
“There were even points in the match against Beck where I came in, but probably came in on the wrong ball a couple of times and lost the point … I can do it in practice and I feel good, but I’ve got to do it in matches so that’s something that we’ve really been trying to focus on and just feel more comfortable with doing those things that you don’t necessarily want to do, but you feel like that’s what you’ve got to do to try and improve.”