Stosur survives on day of carnage for Australia

Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:14am EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A nervous Sam Stosur survived the first test of her annual battle with stage-fright at the Australian Open, but the spotlight is set to focus on the ninth seed after all of her compatriots were dumped from the first round on Monday.

Australia's hopes of a home-bred champion at the year's first grand slam have gone unfulfilled for 34 years and, with Lleyton Hewitt crashing out against eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic late in the evening, appeared set for further frustration.

The ageing former world number one's loss made it eight out of nine local entrants sent packing on day one, leaving Australian flags sagging and a raucous local crowd at Rod Laver Arena deflated.

The burden of expectation has been Stosur's cross to bear in recent years, but the former U.S. Open champion has struggled, never passing the fourth round at her home grand slam.

A repeat of last year's disastrous first-round exit was fresh on the minds of the center court crowd as the 28-year-old strode into Rod Laver Arena and promptly stumbled to give up an early break to Taiwan's plucky Chang Kai-Chen.

Bundled out of both of her warm-up tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney at the first hurdle, Stosur's shoulders were tight and her serve askew before she composed herself with a dominant 7-3 win in the tiebreak before closing out the match 7-6 6-3.

In the lead up to the year's first grand slam, Stosur had, as always, taken care to avoid reading local newspapers, where dissections of her state of mind are an annual feature at the start of the season.

Had she tuned into the nightly news, she would have found Australia's relief in her flighty first-round passage reflected in the lead item on at least one of the major local networks.   Continued...

Samantha Stosur of Australia hits a return to Chang Kai-Chen of Taiwan during their women's singles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, January 14, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray