AAP, 16 January 2012 | AAP
With the eyes of the nation watching, Samantha Stosur launches her Australian Open assault on Tuesday hoping to become the first local champion in 35 years.
Yet she faces some daunting history – modern-day greats Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters are the only women in the past decade who can boast about achieving what Stosur is striving for at Melbourne Park.
Winning back-to-back grand slam crowns has proven the most elusive of feats this century.
Now that’s Stosur’s challenge as he looks to follow up her US Open triumph with Australian Open glory, as Clijsters did last year and Williams in 2009, while Henin completed the same double in 2003-04.
Stosur is hoping to play another four or five Australian Opens, but admits it’s best to strike while the iron’s hot.
Despite a less-than-ideal build-up, with early exits in Brisbane and Sydney, Stosur knows she’s at the peak of her powers and that she only has a handful more opportunities to have her name engraved on the Daphne Ackhurst Trophy.
“I’m probably right at that good stage of my career at the moment where I can still get better, but I’ve obviously made big gains recently and I think tennis is in a really good spot at the moment,” Stosur told AAP ahead of her first-round clash with Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
“I’d love to be one of those players that can keep really kicking on and maybe become more of a dominant force.
“I haven’t looked at stopping at all, but another four or five Australian Opens is not an unrealistic approach.
“There’s lots of girls playing that are over 30 – 32, 33. If they can do it, then I don’t see why I couldn’t.
“But for sure, nothing lasts forever.”
Melbourne Park’s blue Plexicushion courts are tailor-made for Stosur, the perfect mix between the clay of Roland Garros where the 27-year-old has so excelled and speedy Flushing Meadows, scene of her greatest day in tennis.
“The surface is good,” Stosur said.
“I’m obviously used to it. I’ve practised on it for a long time.
“The balls just seem to get really, really fluffy and really, really heavy and go slow through the air, so it’s hard to get rewarded for some big shots at times.
“But I guess that’s where weather can play a big part. The sunnier it is, the hotter it is and if the balls are going to be faster through the air like at the US Open, hopefully it can all work to my advantage.”
Stosur, currently ranked fifth, is also among five players who can seize the world No.1 ranking from Caroline Wozniacki in Melbourne.
But that’s the least of her concerns right now.
“The ranking’s going to come from the results that you get and that’s the main thing you can control,” the Queenslander said.
“But I can’t look at that and say ‘this is what I want to achieve’ without doing all the other things to make that happen.”