Melbourne, Australia , 15 January 2023 | Vivienne Christie

Much has changed since a 17-year-old Sam Stosur launched her first Australian Open campaign exactly 21 years ago.

The courts were green, the tournament’s footprint hadn’t yet expanded to such generous proportions and the then-world No.258 was yet to fully appreciate some of the key lessons that would eventually shape her Grand Slam-winning tennis career.

“I played Greta Ahn in the first round, and I was so excited about playing Martina Hingis in the second round [but] I didn’t even win my first round,” Stosur recalled with a laugh. “So that was a good learning curve – when you’re young, kind of junior starting out, not to get ahead of yourself.”

Yet for all that has changed in the more than two decades following that Grand Slam debut, much has remained the same for the Queensland-born Stosur, who first took up tennis after she was gifted a racquet as an eight-year-old.

Asked to reflect on the best piece of advice she’d received in her many years of tennis, Stosur considered the technical elements – learning how to best combine her devasting serve and forehand, for example – and mind shifts, before pointing to the values that she learned as a junior.

“When I was young [my coach] Nick. I think he’s the one that really taught me to always try your best. You know, you shake hands at the end of the day, you respect your opponent, yourself, what’s going on,” Stosur said.

“And it’s not like we ever sat down, and he said, ‘you know, this is how you got to be’ or anything like that [but] I’ve always then grown up through my whole career to try and have that way of being.”

It’s an approach that’s worked superbly throughout an enduring and glittering career, which peaked with the world No.1 doubles ranking in 2006 and No.4 in singles in 2011.

Set to play her last tournament at AO 2023 (in doubles with Alize Cornet, and mixed doubles with Matt Ebden), Stosur will end her professional career as the only Australian player in the past four decades to claim Grand Slam titles across singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

She memorably defeated Serena Williams to claim the US Open women’s title and was runner-up at Roland Garros in 2010.

The 38-year-old was also a proud Billie Jean King Cup (originally Fed Cup) representative, noting how that team competition profoundly influenced her career.

While she lost her first Fed Cup match to Fabiola Zuluaga of Colombia, the 18-year-old’s three-set challenge against a higher-ranked opponent provided the foundations for Stosur’s 29-20 match-winning record (the best for any Australian player).

Featuring in a second Billie Jean King Cup Final for Australia as recently as last November, her influence on the nation’s future generation of players has extended well beyond the court.

“I’ve always tried to lead by example, and I mean this last one was no different,” said Stosur, who added to her doubles record alongside Storm Hunter in her 34th tie for Australia.

“I do feel like those girls do look up to me and I don’t take that position for granted because it’s a very, very privileged position to be in if your peers can look up to you, and you can either help or influence or whatever it may be in a positive way.

“I’ve always taken that on board and know that I’m in that sort of position and tried to do the best I can whenever I’m around them. I think it’s a really special place to be.”

Having advised many of her younger peers informally – “a lot of it just happens from hanging out or being on the practice court or incidental conversations” – Stosur recently stepped into a leadership position as Australia’s co-captain with Lleyton Hewitt at the United Cup.

That rewarding experience provided a hint of possibilities in Stosur’s post-professional life.

The outlook for the upcoming weeks are clear for the Australian, as are the next months.

Following her AO 2023 campaign, Stosur is looking forward to family life with her partner, Liz, and two-year-old daughter, Evie. “We’re going to go on a family holiday, for the first time without racquets, and just do that weird normal stuff that we’ve never really been able to do,” she smiled.

But a life without tennis will never factor for Stosur, who sees coaching and commentary in her future. And as she maintains her connection through Australia’s next generation, the retiring champions is doing so with an enduring passion for the sport.

“I’m in a pretty lucky position that I’m in, to do what I’ve done. And really couldn’t ask for any more,” she smiled, as she contemplated the bigger picture.

“I know I’ve done everything I can to be the best I can at any given moment. So, I can be happy.”