Samantha Stosur embarks on tennis’s version of Mission Impossible on Monday when the big local hope launches her Australian Open campaign at Melbourne Park.
As if opening up against an opponent who whipped her three days earlier isn’t unnerving enough, the tennis gods have thrust Stosur into a landmine section of the draw headed by all-conquering world No.1 Serena Williams.
Already psychologically battered from years of flops at her home grand slam, Stosur will now likely need to beat the winners of all three major lead-up events just to make the quarter-finals for the first time in 12 attempts.
That’s if she can even first find a way past Klara Zakopalova, the veteran Czech who upended the Australian No.1 in straight sets in the Hobart International semi-finals last week.
Incredibly, Stosur is then projected to meet Sydney International champion Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round, Auckland Classic winner Ana Ivanovic in the third round and Williams, who reigned at the Brisbane International, in the last 16.
The 17th seed could not possibly have been handed a more devilish draw.
Little wonder Stosur isn’t looking beyond Zakopalova and “trying to rectify any problems” she had in Friday’s 6-3 6-2 loss to the world No.37.
“I probably would like to return a little bit better,” Stosur said.
“Cut down those errors, obviously, but still play the way I want to play.
“I know how I want to play and be aggressive and try to hit winners.”
Stosur isn’t the only Australian with a treacherous draw.
Teenage wildcard Ashleigh Barty has the biggest ask of the lot, up against top seed Williams at Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.
“Look, playing Serena is always a tough prospect,” Stosur said.
“I think Ash has to go out there, soak it all up, really enjoy the moment.
“Obviously she’s not expected to win. But go out there and have as much fun as you can.
“It will be a really good opportunity for her to play one of those big match moments so early on in her career.
“Ash is a good player and I’m sure she’s going to love the opportunity.”
Stosur and Barty are among seven Australians in action on the opening day of the championships.
Jarmila Gajdosova plays German ninth seed Angelique Kerber in the opening match on centre court, Casey Dellacqua is up against Vera Zvonareva, teenager Jordan Thompson faces the men’s 20th seed and Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz, Sam Groth meets 28th seed Vasek Pospisil and Matt Ebden takes on Nicolas Mahut.
Australia’s eight other singles representatives, including Bernard Tomic against world No.1 Rafael Nadal, play their first-round matches on Tuesday.