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By Greg Stutchbury
MELBOURNE, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Playing an unranked opponent, 5-2 up in the third set and serving for the match, world number nine Samantha Stosur agreed she had ‘choked’ to lose her Australian Open second round match against China’s Zheng Jie on Wednesday.
The 6-4 1-6 7-5 ‘choke’ ensured she crashed out of her home grand slam early, again. The Australian has not advanced beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park in 10 main draws.
Her form in her home country is even more abysmal. Over the last two seasons, the 2011 U.S. Open champion has won just twice in eight matches.
”Obviously it’s a pretty hard one to take when you get yourself well and truly into a winning position (and) playing really quite well,“ Stosur told reporters. ”Then all of a sudden you get to 5-2 and you lose five games straight.
“Whatever word you want to put on it. At 5-2 up in the third, double break probably is a bit of a choke, yeah.”
Stosur had started terribly against Zheng, who had beaten her a week earlier in the first round in Sydney, with her kick serve drifting wide of the service line or beyond the “T”.
However, battling to hold her serve in the first game of the second set kick-started a renaissance for the Australian and she won 11 of the next 14 games.
Serving for the match, and a third round clash with Germany’s Julia Goerges, the Australian served a double fault and then blasted an easy forehand return straight into the net.
The loss of the game tightened her up, she said, and she got too within her head as she could not let the lost opportunities to seal the match go until it got too late.
“You make an error and you tighten up a little bit, but you try and reset and refocus before that next point,” she said.
”Unfortunately it just kept happening point after point after point.
”You do it over and over and over again, and then, yeah, you start not wanting to miss rather than wanting to make the winner.
“Instead, it’s ‘I don’t want to make the error’. Then crazy things start popping into your head, and before you know it, you’re back on even terms and really lost a lead that with two breaks in the third should never go away.”
Stosur was the last Australian woman in the draw and given her rise into the top-10, local hopes had rested upon her to become the first home grown women’s champion since Christine O‘Neill won the title in 1978.
Expectations, however, had not played a part in her loss or indeed even her dreadful run at home over the last two seasons.
”It’s just hard no matter where you’re playing,“ she said of playing at the top level. ”You obviously want to play your best.
”I know I haven’t been playing my best. I’ve been trying to get to that point. Now, unfortunately, the summer is over.
“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.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)