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On Friday afternoon, Sam Stosur found herself up against 10,501 adversaries. Staring down Francesca Schiavone on Centre Court in Rome to record a 6-2, 6-4 win was no mean feat, particularly with the memories of her defeat in last year’s Roland Garros final still fresh in her memory. She silenced the crowd however – and her opponent – with a barrage of powerful, accurate forehands and kept her head while all around her were losing theirs.
“I expected it to be that way – to play in Italy against Francesca it would have been silly it was not that way,” she said of the crowd. “I expected it and there was a good atmosphere out there. It was fun to play and I thought I played a good match. I do not think she played her best but that is because I played well and she could not find anything to do against me. We have had very good matches in the past and today I was able to play very, very well against her.”
“I’m happy the way I played and perhaps she was a little bit more nervous with the crowd behind and it made it a little bit more difficult with the expectations of flying high,” Stosur analysed. “Sometimes playing at home is more difficult because of the expectations and even though the crowd is on your side, you want to be playing as best as you can. I think it’s good if you are from a country where you have a big tournament like this where you can experience that. (But)sometimes it is a little bit harder.”
Despite her single-figure ranking, Stosur has only won two titles in her career, at Osaka in 2009 and last year on the green clay in Charleston. She is now a mere four sets away from taking her first WTA Premier crown, but barring her way is this year’s Australian Open finalist Li Na. “I think anyone who is in the semis has a chance to win so I would like to back myself if it’s possible,” said Stosur. “Li Na is having a good week and I have not watched any of the matches recently but I played last year in Stuttgart on clay as well and I played well there and won that match, so I guess I’ll have to try and remember that! Then again its a year later… a little bit will be different and I think it is going to be tough. Every time I go out on court, I just try and play the best I can.” A simple recipe, but as Stosur illustrated in front of a packed Centre Court at the Foro Italico on Friday, very effective.