Samantha’s home slam
Stosur leads Aussie assault on the Open
The weight of Australian expectation is riding on Sam Stosur’s shoulders at this week’s Australian Open, but Channel 7 commentator Sandy Roberts is convinced the women’s field is one of the most even – and intriguing – for years.
Stosur broke through to win last year’s US Open, while Belgium’s Kim Clijsters won in Australia, Li Na became China’s first Grand Slam champion in France and Czech Petra Kvitova took Wimbledon.
Waiting to knock off 2011’s champions are players such as world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.
The days of two or three players dominating the women’s game are long gone and Roberts couldn’t be more excited about the prospective battles at Melbourne Park.
“I think the depth of women’s tennis is one of the bonuses for the sport of the past few years,’’ says Roberts, who has covered more Australian Opens than he cares to remember as well as AFL, golf and every Olympics since Moscow in 1980.
“We thought Martina Navratilova had power and then the Williams sisters made us think again but now players such as Kvitova have taken it to another level.
“And who knows, someone might come out of the pack this year and take the bar even higher.’’
Roberts – and the bulk of Australian tennis fans – would like nothing better than for Stosur to become the first home- grown Australian Open champion since the unseeded Chris O’neil won in 1978.
But Roberts wonders how Stosur will cope with the pressure. “There are going to be questions asked of Sam,’’ Roberts says.
“She’s won the US Open but how’s she going to handle the pressure?
“There are questions to be asked of Kvitova having won Wimbledon. Can she take the next step and win a second slam?
“I think it’s going to be interesting to see what form Kim Clijsters brings to Melbourne Park, what form Kvitova brings here and of course there are the east Europeans like Azarenka and co.”
But Roberts is comfortable tipping a final between Kvitova, the world No. 2, and top-ranked Wozniacki from Denmark.
As for the men, he doesn’t want to go past the great Roger Federer.
The four-time champion from Switzerland turns 32 in August but finished 2011 in brilliant form, winning a record sixth ATP World Tour Finals title with a victory over France’s Jo-wilfried Tsonga.
“I think the men are set up for a fantastic Open, especially when you consider Federer played so well at the end of the last season,’’ Roberts says.
“Novak Djokovic had the year from heaven in 2011 but as is often the case, when you have a year like that it is very difficult to replicate it.’’
Andy Murray has lost the past two finals at Melbourne Park and Roberts can’t see him breaking the bridesmaid status this year.
“Andy was so disappointing last year, it was almost like he was playing himself as well as his opponent,’’ Roberts says.
“He was beating himself up and he’s just got to stop doing that.
“Until he can, guys like Federer are going to have the better of him.
“He could join that group that goes through life at number two, three, four in the world without ever winning a slam.’’
Whatever happens over the next fortnight, viewers are guaranteed a complete coverage.
Led by Bruce Mcavaney and with people such as Roberts, Jim Courier, Johanna Griggs, Todd Woodbridge, Roger Rasheed and, commitments permitting, Lleyton Hewitt on board, the broadcast will make use of Seven’s digital channel 7Two to give unbroken coverage.
“We’ve had a few problems with the coverage when day games have tended to go on beyond 6pm,’’ Roberts admitted.
“Of course, we have no control over
And who knows, someone might come out of the pack this year and take the bar even higher
how long a match is going to go on.
“There have been a couple of memorable occasions when we have had to jump out of the tennis for the news but the good news this year is that if there is a match in progress at 6pm, people can just switch to 7Two and see it there.
“Fans won’t miss anything.’’
Australian Open Tennis From 11am today on Seven, and for the next fortnight