Samantha Stosur has breathed a big sigh of relief after exorcising some demons to safely progress to the second round of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
Just three days after suffering a straight-sets hiding from Klara Zakopalova in Hobart, Stosur turned the tables on the dangerous Czech with a hard-fought 6-3 6-4 victory to keep her Open hopes alive.
Australia’s only seed in this year’s singles events, Stosur rallied from 4-1 down in the second set to advance after one hour and 32 minutes in temperatures in excess of 30 degrees in Rod Laver Arena.
“It’s a relief,” Stosur said.
“I’m very happy to get through the first round. It’s always tough playing the first round of any grand slam.”
The world No.17 said her biggest improvement from Friday’s loss to Zakopalova was her return of serve.
“I tried to work myself into the points and not go for winners too early,” Stosur said.
The world No.17’s win set up a second-round meeting on Wednesday with either in-form Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, who claimed three top-10 scalps en route to the Sydney International title last week, or Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa.
Stosur made a flying start on Monday, breaking Zakopalova in the opening game of the match and consolidating with a love hold for an early 2-0 advantage.
She recovered from love-30 down to hold for 3-1 but dropped her third service game to allow the Czech back on level terms.
Stosur broke straight back the very next game, and then again to take the first set in 36 minutes.
But after fending off two break points with big aces, Stosur dropped serve in the first game of the second set to give Zakopalova another sniff.
It was all she needed to gain a foothold in the match.
Pouncing on some shallow second serves and striking a succession of powerful forehand winners, Zakopalova broke Stosur for a third time to charge to a 3-0 lead.
Stosur, though, has never lost in 14 previous matches at Melbourne Park after winning the opening set and dug deep to draw back to 4-all.
The 2011 US Open champion then hung tough to stave off further break points in the next game to hold for 5-4 and prevailed on Zakopalova’s 28th unforced error of the match.