Samantha Stosur set for emotional homecoming

Samantha Stosur set for emotional homecoming

BRISBANE, Australia - Agence France-Presse
Samantha Stosur set for emotional homecoming

Australian tennis star Samantha Stosur has not played a tournament in her country since her straight sets victory over Serena Williams at the US Open in August. AFP photo

Reigning US Open champion Samantha Stosur hopes her win over Serena Williams has given her the confidence to meet the high expectations of her home crowd at the Brisbane International beginning Dec. 1.

Stosur has not played a tournament in Australia since her stunning straight sets victory over Williams at Flushing Meadows in August.

The 27-year-old was born in Brisbane and grew up on the nearby Gold Coast, but has so far failed to make an impact at the Brisbane tournament, seemingly struggling to cope with the high expectations from her home crowd.

She lost in the second round in 2009 and at the same stage in January this year, when she went into the tournament as top seed.

If she is to finally succeed in Brisbane, Stosur must overcome a high quality field, including a fully fit Williams, former champion Kim Clijsters, Italian Francesca Schiavone and rising German star Andrea Petkovic.

But Stosur said winning the US Open had removed an enormous weight from her shoulders.
“I’ve achieved the one thing that I’ve always wanted to,” she said.

“Maybe I can now, in some ways, relax and really enjoy every single moment.

“I think at least having that (Grand Slam) under your belt is a huge confidence booster and hopefully it definitely will help me in the future.”

Clijsters, who won the Brisbane International in 2010 in a pulsating final against fellow Belgian Justine Henin, said she was eager to return to the winner’s circle following an injury-marred second half of 2011.

The four-time Grand Slam winner played only three tournaments in the last seven months of last year and was forced to withdraw from both Wimbledon and the US Open.

Clijsters, who has previously said she planned to retire from tennis after the London Olympics in August, conceded she was no longer thinking about a finishing date.

“In tennis, the season is long and it’s tough and I just try to focus on one week at a time, and my next focus is Brisbane and that’s what I’m training for,” she said.

“That’s why I came here (before Christmas) to be ready to try and be the best Kim I can when I play my first match here.

“The motivation (to keep playing) is there,” she added.

“Because of the injuries maybe last year it was a little down and it was frustrating.

“I push myself hard every practice now and that’s the motivation factor that’s there, and to achieve that little bit extra that’s a detail you definitely need to have.”

Second seeded Petkovic, who finished runner-up to Petra Kvitova in Brisbane in January, insisted that despite the high quality field Williams was still the one to beat.

“I haven’t seen her now for the last three or four months because she’s been injured, but she is always a weapon,” the 24-year-old German said.

“She always comes back and seems not to have been gone at all and it’s always very amazing and incredible.”
The men’s field doesn’t boast the star power of the women’s, but still features world number four Andy Murray and the 12th ranked Gilles Simon from France.

Murray is playing in Brisbane for the first time as he prepares for the Australian Open, where he has finished runner-up for the past two years.

“I feel pretty fit and have been doing a lot of work,” Murray said.

“Everyone wants to get some matches in because it’s been a long break.”