Australian Open 2022: Retiring great Sam Stosur reveals how she found the freedom that eluded her throughout her career

Marc McGowanNCA NewsWire
Sam Stosur’s first-round Australian Open win extended her singles swan song for a couple more days at least. Michael Klein
Camera IconSam Stosur’s first-round Australian Open win extended her singles swan song for a couple more days at least. Michael Klein Credit: News Corp Australia

Freedom is a good look on Sam Stosur.

Free of the expectation. Free of the crippling, and often unfair, criticism. Free of the burden on herself.

And free to put on one last show that might make once-a-year Australian tennis fans look beyond what they saw only at Melbourne Park.

Or, at least give them a lasting memory of refreshing positivity that Stosur, who announced in December this would be her final singles tournament, was rarely afforded at home.

Weighed down by suffocating and mounting pressure in conditions that never maximised her strengths, she exited the Australian Open in the first round eight times in her previous 19 trips.

Stosur needs to own much of that, because it’s not a record that befits the great player she has been – and make no mistake, she’s been a great player.

They don’t hand out grand slam singles titles or top-five rankings. She is, for all her faults, a national tennis treasure.

But deep down, the harsh critiques from those who should support Stosur most were borne from wanting so desperately for her to do well.

That much was obvious in the outpouring of joy, relief and well wishes after Stosur’s first-round victory over 169th-ranked American wildcard Robin Anderson.

She seemed more willing to show positive emotion in key moments and generally looked like she was in her element – in stark contrast to the tortured soul we sometimes witnessed.

Samantha Stosur vs Robin Anderson
Camera IconSam Stosur rode a wave of emotions in her win over American wildcard Robin Anderson. Michael Klein Credit: News Corp Australia

Stosur did tell us this would be the summer of enjoyment for her.

“It’s sort of easier, because it’s kind of like, ‘This is your last chance’. If you don’t do it now, you’re never going to have another opportunity to do it,” she said.

“Kind of like back’s against the wall, this is it. I’ve been wanting to try to find that in my tennis for a couple of years now.

“I think when you’re chasing something – even though it’s not about that – it’s always in the back of your mind, ‘I’ve got to do well here, your ranking is not going in the right direction’, all that sort of stuff.

“It doesn’t always allow that to happen. I feel like the last month or so, since I decided this is what I wanted to do, I’ve kind of found that.”

There’s something sad about Stosur unlocking the formula as the end rapidly approaches, rather than in her prime when others made their mind up on her.

But those same people always should have factored in the whole resume rather than just the Australian Open or even Wimbledon.

Stosur will step out again on Thursday, against familiar foe Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, knowing it might be her last time on a singles court.

If it is, she goes out knowing she is finally free.

Originally published as Australian Open 2022: Retiring great Sam Stosur reveals how she found the freedom that eluded her throughout her career

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails