Sa­man­tha’s home slam

Sto­sur leads Aussie as­sault on the Open

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page - - David Pougher

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

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