Pressure telling on Stosur, says Schiavone

SYDNEY, Jan 9 – Italian Francesca Schiavone thinks Sam Stosur is struggling to handle the pressure of public expectation ahead of the Australian Open.

Stosur agrees.

Schiavone (picture), who beat Stosur in the 2010 French Open final, bundled the Australian out of the Sydney International today with a 6-2 6-4 victory in one hour and 28 minutes.

While the notoriously erratic Stosur sprayed serves and her killer punch, the forehand, misfired badly, the ever-reliable Schiavone took the first set when an errant forehand from Stosur flew off the frame of her racquet and went into the crowd.

Stosur saved three set points at 3-5 in the second set but Schiavone held her nerve and serve to prevail, silencing the crowd at Ken Rosewall arena.

“I think it’s not easy for her to play here in Australia,” Schiavone said. “I think to play at home, when you love it, it is tough to do.”

The Italian was sure Stosur was tough enough to rebound at Melbourne Park next week.

“You are never in control with Sam because you never know how she can play. It was a tougher match than the score suggests.

“She has another chance and the bigger chance is the Australian Open. She has big power and the big shoulders to do it.”

Schiavone’s Plan A had been to pressure Stosur until the Australian cracked. There was no need for Plans B or C.

“That is the way to play against Sam,” Schiavone said. “Otherwise, she’s so strong and fast she will put you under pressure. Live or die.”

Public expectations are high for Stosur ahead of her first Australian Open since she beat Serena Williams in the US Open final last year.

She is determined to improve her poor record on home soil but has now lost early in the Brisbane and Sydney lead-in events.

She was upset by Czech Republic’s Iveta Benesova in the second round at Brisbane last week before her sudden departure in Sydney. She has made 11 appearances at the Australian Open without making it past the fourth round.

“That’s what makes the loss so difficult, Melbourne is coming up and I want to start playing well,” Stosur said. “I think today I certainly didn’t handle that (expectation) side of things at all well.

“I think being in Australia and playing in Australia, I want to play the best I can play and do it all here this month, right here right now.

“Then when it doesn’t happen, it’s obviously disappointing. It probably makes it more disappointing here than anywhere else.

“I went into it with the right frame of mind, and got out there and it (the crowd support) kind of hit me. It did kind of surprise me how much it kind of hamstrung me today.” – Reuters


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