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Sam Stosur

 

There are moments when Sam Stosur looks like one of the best tennis players on the planet. Her tennis is the type that dazzles, the inside-out forehand carving up the court like butter on a hot Melbourne day, a backhand as solid as Andy Murray's, a natural kick serve that you can't teach, and an athleticism born of far more than just hard work. She has point-ending power, a facet that is rarer than you would think in today's tennis.

Her US Open victory in 2011 was one of those moments. Wednesday night on Rod Laver Arena was one of those moments. Stosur owned prime-time on Melbourne Park's centre court, making you wonder how Tsvetana Pironkova, champion in Sydney last week, was on a nine-match winning streak. Beating the Bulgarian 6-2 6-0 in an hour and seven minutes, the 17th seed looked entirely comfortable in front of her home crowd, which has often been far from the case.

"I feel great," Stosur said. "Really happy with the way that I played. She started out pretty well. But I feel like I was finding my range pretty well and felt good and was moving well.

"I definitely tried to dictate play right from the start, that's kind of always the way I want to play, regardless of who I'm playing. Especially tonight, I felt I was able to do that quite well, right from the first game to the last, wait for my opportunities if I needed to."

Stosur played freely and yet functionally, moving Pironkova around the court before burying a blatant winner, 23 of them in total, past the former Wimbledon semifinalist's flailing racket. She faced one break point, created 13, and dominated from the back and from the net. She even served and volleyed.

The first five games went with serve, and although it was Stosur who faced the first break point at 1-1, Pironkova was forced to find a spade and dig her way out of three break points in the third game. In the sixth, Stosur hit a forehand winner to break, and did the same two games later.

"Once I got that first break, I felt like, okay, you're on your way a little bit," Stosur said. "Obviously the longer it went on, the more comfortable I felt. I was able to dictate play with what I wanted to do. Really, really pleasing from that aspect."

The second set was like racing a speedboat down the middle of the Yarra. Stosur took the first break by forcing an unforced error, the second when Pironkova double-faulted, had three chances to take the third before firing a forehand winner, before reeling off another a game later to win the match.

Without getting unduly carried away, on such form, Stosur could beat anyone. But whether she can replicate it on a different day, different court, against a different opponent, that will be the test. Her next opponent is Ana Ivanovic, also in the midst of a positive streak.

"It's going to be a tough match," Stosur said. "Ana has been playing well last year, last two tournaments last year we played, she won one, I won one. I'm looking forward to it.

"I am happy to be in the third round. I want to keep going, I'm really pleased with the way I played tonight. Hopefully I can keep building on what I did and really enjoy it out there and have fun."

If she does, and all goes well, it will likely be Serena that awaits in the fourth round - an enticing prospect. Let's hope she gets there.

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Post-Tournament
Monday, 22 December 2014
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