It has happened again. Australian tennis star Sam Stosurhas failed in front of her own fans. The 2011 U.S. Open champion has a poor record at the Australian Open and that has not improved after losing in the second round –the third day of the tournament.
Nobody was quite sure how it happened. Stosur was leading Zheng Jie of China and set for a place in the third round. At one set each, the Aussie was 5-2 up in the third set and victory seemed inevitable. Yet she proceeded to lose the next five games at the Rod Laver Arena.
It was as shattering a defeat as you will see anywhere in the tennis world in 2013 and reinforces the perception that she can’t handle hometown expectations though after coming back from losing the first set.
The inevitable question was asked at the post-game press conference. Did she choke?
"Whatever word you want to put on it. At 5-2 up in the third, double break probably is a bit of a choke."
Australian newspaper The Herald Sun helpfully explained what choking is, under the headline of "Sam Stosur joins list of sport’s biggest chokers…"
“Scientists say what happens when athletes choke is pretty simple – they start thinking too much about what they normally do on instinct,” the newspaper said. “That creates mistakes, which ramp up the pressure, increasing anxiety and creating a deadly spiral. Shots Stosur makes a thousand times at practice without thinking suddenly become a huge mental challenge.”
She made 56 errors in the game, including nine double faults on her serve.
"You make an error and you tighten up a little bit, but you try and reset and refocus before that next point," Stosur said. "Unfortunately it just kept happening point after point after point. You know, then crazy things start popping into your head, and before you know it, you're back on even terms, and then your lead is gone."
Stosur’s record in the Australian Open is poor. In eleven attempts, she has failed to make it past the fourth round. In 2012, she exited at the first round.
"Now, unfortunately, the summer is over as quickly as what it started again.
"I'll do what I always do and keep playing and keep trying hard. I mean, I know I'm going to get over it. It's just you want it now, not tomorrow."