Sam Stosur confirmed her potential with a long-awaited grand slam crown at the US Open, but she will confront her mental demons once again at Melbourne Park where the burden of expectation has often left her cowering like a rabbit in the headlights.
The Australian number one's emphatic win over Serena Williams on the American's stomping ground at Flushing Meadows in September has ratcheted up the pressure again, with local fans expectant of a first home champion since Chris O'Neil's 1978 triumph in the women's singles.
Despite gleaning confidence from joining the grand slam club, world number six Stosur has appeared as brittle as ever on Australian soil, bundled out early in both the Brisbane and Sydney warm-up events.
Unlike many on the tour, the plain-spoken Queenslander has never shied away from discussing her stage-fright in Melbourne, where she has failed to pass the fourth round in nine appearances.
"I definitely analyse it, talk about it, assess what happened out on court and why, all that kind of thing," Stosur said of her disappointing lead-up, which included a straight sets loss in Sydney to Italy's Francesca Schiavone, her 2010 French Open final nemesis.
"Kind of once we've had that talk, then, yeah, you don't want to dwell on anything too negative.
"You can't dwell on anything that you weren't happy about for too long. Yeah, take what you can out of it, do whatever you need to change, if you need to change anything."
For Stosur, a muscular 27-year-old with a killer forehand, that amounts to easing the pressure on herself and consulting a psychologist at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Stosur said she had been in touch with Ruth Anderson, the psychologist she credited for turning her game around when she reached a low ebb early last year.
"I think at the end of the day I just need to worry about playing good tennis," she said.
"That's what I've been trying to do on the practice courts since then and not get too caught up in, is it absolutely perfect, all that kind of thing.
"It's hard to always play perfect. Maybe when you're a little bit stressed, that's what you're always looking for.
"You can go out there and play well; it doesn't have to be perfect. Give a hundred per cent, compete hard. If I can do that then, yeah, I'll be happy."
Stosur will play world number 60 Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the first round but faces a tough road to the second week. Russian 29th seed Nadia Petrova is a potential third-round opponent which could be followed by a possible fourth-round clash with ninth seed Marion Bartoli of France.
At least she has another high-profile Australian taking away some of the spotlight in Bernard Tomic, the 37th-ranked teenager whose Wimbledon quarter-finals appearance last year has boosted local hopes of a men's contender in the draw.
Stosur said she would not be giving the plucky 19-year-old any tips in how to soak up the home-town pressure.
"No. I'm still trying to work all that out myself, get used to it," she said.
"Bernard has a different personality to me. He seems to handle it quite well. He obviously thrives on all the attention that he gets.
"He's obviously done very, very well so far. I'm sure that's going to continue."
ReutersTags: australian-open, tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia First posted January 14, 2012 19:24:09