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Jeff Cooper

Slam Winners of 2011 Biggest Upsets So Far

By January 17, 2013

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The closest the 2013 Australian Open has come to significant upsets thus far are the losses of two 2011 Grand Slam champions on the women's side in the second round.  Samantha Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion and ninth seed, lost to Jie Zheng 6-4, 1-6, 7-5, and Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion and eighth seed, lost to Laura Robson 2-6, 6-3, 11-9.

Stosur's loss was a case study in the importance of the mental factor in tennis.  Sam always has trouble playing in Australia, apparently because she feels the pressure of her home country's hopes and expectations.  The Aussie fans chanting and singing to support her during her match with Jie Zheng only seemed to increase her unease, as she let the match slip away from 5-2 up in the third set.  Of her 56 unforced errors, 21 occurred in latter part of the third set, and most of them were on her forehand, her stronger side.  Like Roger Federer, Sam tends to hit her forehands into the net when she's tense, but for her, it's a more avoidable error, because the tremendous topspin she generates on her forehand side should allow her a ton of clearance if she could remind herself to aim higher when she's feeling pressure.  If muscle tension, which can result from psychological tension, makes Sam swing less freely and thus quickly, she will tend to be just a bit late on her forehand, and that will typically make her hit lower than expected.  Aiming higher with her heavy topspin will make her forehand more forgiving of small timing errors.

Kvitova's loss was partly mental, in that she lacks confidence after a poor start to 2013, but she continued to compete with determination despite her wildly uneven execution of the high-risk shots she had to try against an opponent who would blast back anything neutral or defensive.  Petra's firepower ranks among the top handful in the women's game, but so does Robson's.  A few days shy of 19 years old, Laura is a major rising star for the United Kingdom.

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