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Rediff.com  » Sports » Stosur reaps the rewards as slow-burning career takes off

Stosur reaps the rewards as slow-burning career takes off

Last updated on: June 4, 2010 16:32 IST

Flawless performance against Jankovic

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Samantha Stosur has paid her dues, now she is reaping the rewards as what was a relatively low-key professional career has suddenly taken off.

On Thursday she completed a remarkable hat-trick of victories at the French Open to reach her first Grand Slam singles final, thrashing Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-2 with an hour-long display of faultless claycourt tennis.

The 26-year-old had already accounted for four-times French Open winner Justine Henin in the fourth round and world number one Serena Williams in the last eight and few would bet against her crowning a magnificent rise on Saturday against Italy's Francesca Schiavone.


Image: Samantha Stosur and Jelena Jankovic
Photographs: Reuters
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'To be in my first final is just incredible'

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This time last year Stosur was turning heads when she reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros. Her progress since, including her first two WTA singles titles, has finally shaken off the 'doubles specialist' tag.

Should she beat Schiavone she would become the first Australian woman to win a grand slam singles title since Evonne Goolagong won Wimbledon in 1980.

"It's great for Australian tennis," the Gold Coast based Stosur told reporters. "Fantastic! I probably couldn't have asked to play a much better match today in the semi-finals.

"To do that today and now be in my first final is just incredible," she added.


Image: Samantha Stosur

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A slow-burner

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Stosur, ranked seventh in the world, has come a long way since 2008 when she was recovering from Lyme's Disease, a tick-borne illness that can affects the skin, heart and nervous system and which could have ended her career.

"It could have been (the end of my career)," Stosur said. "I've been told by the doctors that it's not a good thing to get. I think I turned it around and I think I'm pretty fortunate that I was able to come back and be healthy so quickly," she added.

Stosur's singles career has been a slow-burner in anybody's books. From 2005 to 2008 her ranking hovered around the 50s but last year she shot up to end 2009 at 13.

The reasons are obvious. Her kicking serve, which had Jankovic playing returns way above shoulder height on Thursday, is a major asset and her forehand is one of the heaviest pieces of artillery in the women's game.


Image: Samantha Stosur

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'It's got better and better as the years have gone on'

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Behind the sunglasses that she wears rain or shine, her mental toughness is now without question as demonstrated when she survived a match point against Williams.

"All through my juniors up until now, it has been a strength of mine and a weapon, and it's got better and better as the years have gone on," Stosur said of a serve inspired by her favourite home player Pat Rafter.

"I think it is a rarity, so I can kind of pull it out or set myself up for the points in different ways than some girls can," she added.

A fortitude gained from the disappointments of life on the Tour has also helped the transformation from bit-part player to French Open finalist.

"Really understanding my game and how to use it and my strengths and weaknesses and all that, I've got a lot better at understanding everything," she said.

"And then self belief and starting to win big matches. So I think it's a combination of lots of things all coming together," she added.


Image: Samantha Stosur

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