| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff
Photo credit: Kenneth B. Goldberg

The 2011 U.S. Open saw the number nine seed Australian Samantha Stosur take the title as the women's singles champion. Stosur defeated the 28th-seeded and former number one American Serena Williams in straight sets. The Australian native was the first Aussie to win a major tournament in 31 years. Here's a look back at her reflecting on her 2011 U.S. Open experience ...

Is this a bit surreal, the emphatic nature of it all and how quickly it went and everything else? How do you describe it?

SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, I'm still kind of speechless. I can't actually believe I won this tournament. I guess to go out there and play the way I did is obviously just an unbelievable feeling, and you always, you know, hope and you want to be able to do that, but to actually do it, is unbelievable.

On behalf of Australia, congratulations, first of all.
SAMANTHA STOSUR
: Thanks.

You were up against quite a formidable opponent. How did you rate your chances coming into today?
SAMANTHA STOSUR:
Well, I mean, I felt like I was definitely the underdog going into it, so maybe that kind of made me a little more relaxed going into this match than especially my last Grand Slam final. I think I was able to draw on a lot of that experience from the French Open. You know, I had to believe I had a chance to win. I think obviously having two victories over her in the past definitely helped me feel that it was possible. I knew that I had to go out there and play well and actually do it, but I think having those victories in the past for sure made me feel a little bit more comfortable.

Obviously there was the controversy about the call. It was a big moment in the match. From your perspective, you know, there is some latitude in the hindrance rule. Did you feel like she made, the umpire made the proper call?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Well, I mean, I don't know. Everything happened so quickly out there, and you're trying to get to the ball and play every single shot.
I guess the rules of tennis are there for a reason. She made the call that she felt was right.

Did you feel it was a ball you could have possibly returned?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I can't even totally remember the whole point. Like I said, everything happens out there so fast, and then the crowd and the noise and everything else, so I don't know.

If you can share your thoughts, did you ever feel it was coming a bit more easily than you expected, and how did you handle not succumbing to that?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Oh, for sure if I was gonna win, I didn't think that I'd be able to do it in 6 2, 63, that's for sure.
After that first set I kind of sat down and I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest, and I thought, Okay, I'm a set up now; I've got a chance to win one out of the next two and I've got a chance.

Those thoughts were running through your mind?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, on the change of ends.

Just like a club player, thinking ahead?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Things come into your mind. You can't control what comes into your mind. But I guess you can control what you do with those thoughts. Yeah, I just tried to keep playing each game, each point, and stick to my game plan, stick to my guns, and not leave anything to chance. Fortunately I was able to do that from start to finish.

When can you remember playing as complete a match and as good a match as you played today?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Um, I don't know. It's obviously hard to compare today to any other match. I've played matches where I feel like I played lights out, can't miss a ball, and, you know, it's fantastic, but to do it under these circumstances in this kind of final against a player like Serena, for sure I'm gonna think it's one of the best days of my career, of my life of playing. So I think I've played, like I said, matches where I played extremely well, but under these circumstances it's something different.

What aspects of the match do you think were decisive, technically speaking?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Tactically?

Technically, tactically.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Well, I think me being able to go after her second set serve, obviously she's got a huge first serve. If she had not quite on, you get slight chances there on her second. Today I was able to step in and hit my favorite shot nearly off every single one and really put her under pressure every time she missed a first serve.
I think that was big. Maybe that made her feel a little more pressure to start making more first serves and it's a little more difficult. And on serve I felt like my percentages were good. I hit the right spots at the right time and tried to vary it as much as I could. Probably felt like she didn't get a clean hit on a lot of my balls. As soon as I got opportunities to go for winners or set myself up, I did it.  I guess you can always go into a match having your tactics, but you've got to execute them. Today I was able to do it very well.

Your favorite shot being the inside out forehand.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Forehand, yeah, (Laughter.)

With the unusual way that started the second set, first game of the second set ended and Serena arguing about it, was it tough to stay focused during that? Did you lapse a little at all there?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Um, I don't know. For sure it was difficult to stay focused, and then obviously the crowd got heavily involved. You know, it was probably the loudest I ever felt a crowd in my whole entire life. You're right in the middle of it. It was definitely a quite overwhelming feeling. But once I hit that next ball in the court and started playing again, I felt settled. I guess it definitely could have been the big pivotal point in the match.

You're a real tour professional and a veteran, yet people still talk about Serena and a certain presence or ferocity, intimidation even in some cases. Just talk about her presence and how she's different from other players.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Oh, well, she's I think probably the best player of at least my generation of playing. I mean, not only is she big in stature and all that, she's got a huge game and obviously has won so many titles.
That presence definitely comes out on the court. I think for sure the first time you play someone like her it's definitely intimidating. She can clean people off the court. So I think having played her in the past, and like I said before having victories against her, you slowly start to get used to that and kind of becomes more relevant and becomes a bit of the task at hand on that day playing the match. Any player like her has got that kind of X factor out there.

You said after beating Petrova in Round 3 that you were so proud because you hadn't been known for your competitiveness on the court. Do you feel like you dispelled the doubt today?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I don't know. Maybe both, I guess. To be able to get through that match but then to continue it on for another four matches, I think I've kind of surprised myself with how much I have been able to mentally stay focused on court and bounce back from the adversity from matches. So I think for me to be able to do that continuous days is something you always want to do, but now to actually do it here is really, really pleasing.

Do you think this will dictate now, what you did today, how you'll play from now on?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I hope it does. I'd like to be able to continue this. I guess time will tell. (Smiling).
For sure it will just reinstate that belief and confidence in myself. Hopefully this is the first day of a, you know, new beginning for me, I guess, as a player.

How was that for you, winning your first slam and also breaking Australia's drought like that?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Unbelievable. Yeah, I didn't start playing to break records or anything like that. My goal and dream since I started I've said it before was to win a Grand Slam. Now to actually do it, it's unbelievable. Being in Australian with that great history and now to break that drought is obviously very special.

There was a time when your results in doubles were so good you virtually were a doubles player, and then you rededicated yourself when came back. Do you think this was a possibility, or you just wanted to see what you could do? Talk about that decision and how it's obviously come to fruition.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, I think the whole time I've been playing I wanted to be a good singles player and get the most out of myself on the singles court. I had that great success in doubles and that was fantastic, but, yeah, once I got sick and got over that illness, then I didn't want to leave anything to chance. Obviously now it was definitely the right decision to try and follow those dreams and those footsteps. You know, I don't know. It's something that I've worked very hard for, obviously, and now to actually get that huge reward is very pleasing. So it's kinda it's great. I mean, to win the doubles here in '05 and now do this is great, and maybe it's kind of funny that Lisa also won the doubles today, so it's kind of cool.

You were out of the game so long with that illness. Did you ever give up on that dream?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: No, never. I always tried to believe that it would be possible to come back from that, and I was very lucky that I did recover very quickly and get back on the court and do what I wanted to do.
So if anything, it kind of made me open my eyes more that you don't necessarily always get a second chance. I wanted to take every opportunity I had, and I have now been able to fulfill that.

Congratulations. Yesterday you talked about 10 years ago at this time you were in Japan playing like 10,000 tournaments. At that time, were you expecting to win the slams some day or like in 10 years?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: No, because 10 years seems like such a long time ago. But it's actually gone very quickly.
Yeah, I think at that point, like I said, it was always a big dream and a big goal of mine. But starting at 10,000s, you're very, very far away from ever doing that.
I guess it's all those little steps you have to take, you know, from that point up until now. And as you take those steps and you get a little bit closer, then it will kind of seems like maybe it's possible.

This victory puts you in a different dimension. Expectations will be higher, especially in Australia. How do you think you will handle the pressure approaching the Australian Open, because you will be the first Australian after Margaret Court winning back to back the Australian Open and US Open titles 40 years ago.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Well, if I'm able to do that, that's great. (Laughter.) Obviously it's very different being at home now and playing at the Australian Open. I've definitely had different pressures playing there in the past and from my success overseas. But I know it's going to be different, and hopefully I can handle it and learn from everything I've gone through over the past years to be able to handle it as best I can. But I guess we'll see how I handle it when the time comes. But if I can play like I did today, then hopefully it's all going to be okay.

I know a lot has been made of your mental strength coming through. I know you've been working diligently on the backhand and then coming to net. Look like finally at this tournament those two things held up very well. Talk about that, the backhand and the volley. You've always had the serve and forehand, but the backhand held up pretty well. In the tournament you seemed a lot more confident at the net, too.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, I guess you've always gotta work on all parts of your game. I think you always want to work on your strengths and focus on those and build your game around that, but you can't have glaringly obvious weaknesses, either. I think I have put a lot of time into working on my backhand, feeling calmer on it, and making sure that technique on that shot is just as good, hopefully, as the rest of my game. I guess for it to hold up under pressure here at this tournament, obviously it's proved that all that hard work and doing it and the hours and the practice court, hating it and wanting to do something else, is all worth it. So I guess it's all part of just becoming a more complete player. I guess to be the best and to do some of that, you have to almost have everything. Fortunately for me, I was able to do that today and throughout the two weeks.

You talked about going back, watching some of this match on TV where she was playing Wozniacki and she was totally intimidating. Did you watch it, and were you a bit daunted by it?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: To be honest, I didn't really see any of the match last night. I was doing my own cooldown stuff and getting back to the hotel, so I didn't really watch any of that.
I obviously knew she was in good form during this event and leading into the event. I played her in the final at Toronto, and, you know, even if she hadn't played a tournament before the Grand Slam, you can never count her out. So I tried. I obviously knew she was playing well, but at the end of the day I just tried to focus on my game and take what I could to the court and hope that it was enough.

Serena had quite a domineering run to the final; for you, there was a lot of scratching, a lot of clawing, a lot of fighting to get there. As a result, you know, a lot of people picked her to win. In a way, those hard battles you had to go through, do you think that in a way you drew confidence from the fact that you've been able to have your back against the wall the way you have and fought and scratches and so forth. A, did that give you confidence? And B, if you can just kind of reflect back on not only today's match, but also on the tournament and what you've learned about yourself.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, I think it's probably pretty rare that a player can go through and win a slam, and, you know, not have to fight through any adversity or, you know, being down in matches. So I think getting through that third round just proves to myself that you could never, you know, give up, and, being a break down in that third set, that all of a sudden turns into winning the tournament. So it proves that if you hang in there hard enough and stay out on the court long enough you can turn things around. So I think my coaches told me in the past to try and win one of these you might play a couple of really great matches, one really terrible, and maybe a couple in between. As long as you get through those and give yourself another chance to be on the court, I guess that's really all that matters. I guess going through that third round especially really proved that if you get through one, you always give yourself another opportunity.

Were you thinking about that going into today's match? I mean, you know, up against such a formidable opponent, is that something that you were drawing upon?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I guess I was I felt like I believed I had a chance, but I knew that I had to play well to try and win. During those long matches and fighting through it and playing well in the previous rounds is for sure a good way to enter into a final no matter who your opponent is, but at the end of the day they don't really matter for today's match. You've still got to go out there and produce good tennis.

Shortly after the match Serena came over and sat down next to you in the chair. Were you surprised she did that? Looked like you were having a friendly chat. What were you talking about?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: All of a sudden, yeah, turned around and she was right next to me, which is kind of unusual. No, she was great, actually. She just said, How do you feel? Are you really excited? It's unbelievable. I played really well. Yeah, I was really surprised to, you know, to see her sitting next to me at that moment in time. I guess it, you know, shows what a nice person she is and what a true champion she is of the sport. To be able to separate the result a few minutes later and be able to come over and congratulate your opponent I thought was pretty classy.

Was it difficult for you to accept the fact that you hadn't won more than two tournaments until today, even if you're such a good player you had beaten most of them or maybe all of them?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah. Obviously I would have liked to have won more titles throughout my career. Been in quite a few finals and wasn't able to get through that last hurdle. I actually didn't even think about any finals, records I have had, or anything like that for today. It didn't matter to me if I hadn't ever won a title before today. I've got this one now, so that makes me proud.

Can you tell us who's with you and what reaction you've had from back home?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I haven't ready any of my messages. I can actually feel my phone buzzing in my pocket right now. I've got a great team around me, and they're there through the thick and thin of my career. Every day they want to make me a better player or support me, or whatever it is their role is. I guess this is huge reward for me, but also for those guys, because I wouldn't be able to do it without them.

The Australian tradition obviously is a great story. I'd like you to talk about in terms of respect, the code of conduct, is that important in today's game, or is it more of just a matter of winning at whatever costs, getting the Ws and prevailing?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Being an Australian or...

As part of the Australian tradition, what are your thoughts on that?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Oh, I think we grow up in Australia whether you're playing tennis or not, respectful and friendly, and, you know, nice people. But playing tennis I think sometimes maybe nowadays it kinda gets lost. I think, you know, you've got to go out there and play between the lines and play a good match. You know, fair is fair, and you can walk off the court knowing I did a good job.  That's it, really. So, you know, you try your best and try your hardest. That's the way I was always taught to play and go out there and have respect for every single opponent you play.

You had a tough first three months of the year through March, through Miami. The results weren't really there. Was there one key moment in April or May when you kind of flipped a switch, got confident again, and said, Yeah, my game is back again?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, I think going through Indian Wells/Miami were definitely two tough tournaments for me. Then Charleston was even tougher than those. That was probably the major turning point for this year after losing there. Had lots of hours of talking and discussions and what to do now and how do I change kind of the path that I was going down. Fortunately that downward spiral didn't last too long, and from Stuttgart I felt like I was playing much better again and found some form and confidence again. Even to now I still had a few ups and downs, but the last month has been pretty much only an up.  I maybe have to have those, you know, disappointing moments to come back stronger and to get a reward like this.

Reflect on the sacrifices you've had to make personally and your family had to make, especially during those teenage years maybe when you're sleeping on couches, that every professional athlete has to do along the way.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, my story is probably no different to many others, but when I was younger, no doubt my family gave up a lot. My parents especially and my younger brothers probably younger brother and my older brother probably got dragged through the tennis clubs more often than not when they didn't necessarily want to.
But I'm lucky that I had a really supportive family. They saw that I had this dream and drive and determination to be a tennis player, and, you know, obviously none of us knew if that was ever gonna pay off. Lucky for me, I had that support behind me. Playing all those small tournaments and, like you said, I've slept in train stations and stayed in dodgy hotels and done the hard yards through many places, and it awful pays off in the end.
I'd do it all over again if I had to.

I'd like to go back to the second set. Did you understand what was going on?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Well, obviously it was like I said before, it was all happening pretty quick and I was just focused on the game and what I had to be doing and trying to keep executing my game plan and all that.
Obviously it was quite a long discussion at the net with Serena and the umpire. The call was made, and then I just tried to play the next point.

It seemed like the umpire would have brought in Rule 26 regardless, the harassment rule.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I guess that's why we have an umpire to make calls. It was her judgment in the end.

Did you know it was...
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I knew there was a rule in place.

You spoke about the importance of your team, and you also spoke about watching Pat Rafter's win and jumping into the stands when you were a teenager. Describe today blow by blow as you go up to the box and celebrate with that team.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, I obviously wanted to get over there and be with those guys, and I didn't actually think I was gonna get up there. It was a fair way up, and I think someone gave me a boost up there and then it maybe all looked a little bit awkward. But it was all good once I got up there. To be able to celebrate that moment with everyone who's been supporting me through these two weeks and throughout a lot of my careers was a fantastic feeling.

 I think the start of the year you were working with Ruth Anderson on the psychological.
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Uh huh.

Has that been ongoing all year? How has that been?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, we touch base I guess sometimes regularly, sometimes not so much. I think I've worked with her for nearly two years now and have certainly learned a lot about myself as a player and off the court as a person. I think, you know, all that time it's not always nice conversations that you have deal with it and talk about, but at the end of the day it's all for a reason. You know, I think she's been able to open my mind up to a lot of different things, and probably just make me realize certain things in myself. It's just working it out. Yeah, obviously very glad that I've started that relationship with Ruth to work on those aspects of my tennis.

Was there one kind of hard truth that came out of all that that you had to confront and get over?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Well, there's been I guess lots of different things, but probably that moment after Charleston playing we spoke a lot, and that was probably one of the more difficult times that I went through.So, yeah, I'm sure there was times where I didn't want to talk about anything and just forget about it and try and shove it under the carpet. But I guess I didn't. Guess it's all worth it.

What was your take away from all those tough conversations after Charleston? What emerged?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I mean, there was obviously lots, but at the end of the day I had to believe that I was gonna feel like I could play my best tennis again, and I think to realize that it's not all gone. It is there.
You've just got to get over that mental hurdle and those battles in your own head during matches that things aren't going so well. It takes time. It's probably all things I already knew, but for someone to talk about it maybe in a different way, say it in a different way, makes you realize things. I think that's probably the main moment, I guess, that I can draw back on from to try and pick me up from that spot.

Which train stations did you sleep?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Fukuoka in Japan. If there was a safe train station, it was that one.

How many nights?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Just one. I wasn't trying to make a habit of it.