Stosur ready for Melbourne cauldron


SYDNEY, January 10- Samantha Stosur said she is ready to handle the expectations of playing at home in the Australian Open after she wore down Yanina Wickmayer in her first match at the Sydney International on Monday.The Australian world number six, seeded four here, converted her only two break points to defeat the 23rd-ranked Belgian, 7-5, 6-4 in 82 minutes.

Stosur will now face two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round on Tuesday.

It was an improved performance by Stosur against a strong-serving opponent after she was knocked out in the opening round of last week’s Brisbane International by compatriot Jarmila Groth in straight sets.

Stosur, 26, had a breakthrough year in 2010 reaching the final of the French Open where she went down to Italy’s Francesca Schiavone.

In the process she became the first Australian woman to reach a Grand Slam final since 1980.

She is now among the favourites for next week’s Australian Open in Melbourne, her chances boosted by the withdrawal of five-time champion Serena Williams because of an injury.

Stosur disappointed when she was knocked out in the fourth round of last year’s Australian Open, but she feels she is now better placed to handle the home pressure.

"I think I learned a lot of from last January and all of 2010," Stosur said.

"So maybe I was a little more prepared for it this year. I think you can only get better with handling it the more you experience it.

"The best players in the world have it day in and out for a long period of time. I’m sure as they stay at the top of the rankings they get more used to it, as I’m trying to now as well."

While Stosur survived, her Roland Garros conqueror Schiavone was bounced out of the tournament in the first round by Russian Alisa Kleybanova, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2.

Other seeds through to the second round were No.7 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and China’s eighth seed Li Na.

Li, battling jet lag after flying in from China the previous day, eliminated Australian Anastasia Rodionova, 6-1, 6-2.