No time to rest on her laurels, Samantha Stosur’s first match of 2011 looms as potentially one of the most important of her career.
Feeling mentally and physically refreshed after a three-week break following her stellar 2010 season, Stosur is back in full training for the new year.
Her immediate focus is the Brisbane International, where a first-round success could secure Stosur a coveted top-four seeding at next month’s Australian Open.
With defending champion and five-times winner Serena Williams scratched from the Open with a foot injury, there are more opportunities than meet the eye for the French Open runner-up.
In the fourth-ranked Williams’s absence, Stosur will be seeded fourth for the Melbourne Park grand slam – and avoid facing a higher-ranked opponent until at least the semi-finals – if she climbs one spot to No.5 in the world.
And trailing the fifth-ranked Venus Williams, who is only playing exhibition events before the Open, by a meagre three rankings points, the door will be ajar for the top-seeded Stosur in Brisbane from January 2-8
“An obvious goal would be to try and get [into the] top five,” Stosur said on Wednesday.
Stosur finished the season on a high with a victory over year-end No.1 Caroline Wozniacki at the WTA Championships in Doha and Williams’s Open no-show is further fuelling her confidence.
“It definitely opens the door for lots of players,” she said.
“It’s a great opportunity for everyone who can play.”
Stosur reached the semifinals in Qatar’s stifling heat and believes the similarly hot conditions in Melbourne will give her a decided edge at her home slam.
“I’m one of the few players that are here now training – on the (Plexicushion) court, in the sun, getting used to the conditions, so I think it can only help throughout January,” she said.
“It’s not so easy for the Europeans who have been in winter or training somewhere else.
“They’ve got to have a long flight over here, a short preparation going into the first couple of tournaments, so hopefully it will put me into a good spot.”
The power-hitting right-hander also believes she’s far better equipped to handle the intense spotlight than last year.
“It was quite difficult last year,” Stosur said.
“It was harder than what I thought it was going to be and I thought I was ready for all the hype and the extra attention, but didn’t really handle it too well in the first couple of weeks.
“But as the Aussie Open went on, I started to feel a bit more comfortable and started playing quite well.
“So now that I’ve had a good taste of that, not only January this year but throughout the whole year, I think I’ll be much better prepared.
“I guess it’s a matter of just keeping your head and really focusing on what’s important and that’s getting on the court and being prepared for matches.”
Stosur will complete her Open build-up at the Sydney International, where seven of the world’s top 10 women will be in action, including Wozniacki.