No longer flying under the radar, Samantha Stosur has been promoted from US Open outcast to a centre-court attraction as she steps up her quest for a second title in New York.
Stosur’s battle with Italian Flavia Pennetta for a coveted quarter-final spot has been scheduled as the feature afternoon match at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday.
The 2011 champion’s star billing comes after she was snubbed by Open officials who denied her a courtesy car to a Flushing Meadows practice session last week and named “Samantha Stodosova” due to a scoreboard glitch in her first-round match.
Stosur insisted she was happy to fly under the radar, but doubles great and Tennis Australia’s former director of player performance Todd Woodbridge welcomed the recognition for the unsung champion.
Woodbridge considers Australia’s 22nd seed a sneaky title contender and is growing ever frustrated that Stosur doesn’t receive more credit.
The 31-year-old is all but guaranteed a return to the world’s top 20 after her charge to the fourth round.
Stosur is also Australia’s last player standing for the 14th time at a grand slam and her unbroken stint as the country’s top-ranked tennis player – man or woman – has stretched to almost six-and-a-half years.
For all the fuss and hype for Nick Kyrgios, who in January became the first teenager since Roger Federer to reach two different grand slam quarter-finals, Stosur has held Australia’s top ranking ever since reaching the 2009 French Open semi-finals.
Not even Lleyton Hewitt, who held the men’s world No.1 ranking for a total of 80 weeks at the start of the millenium, ever enjoyed as long a reign without being knocked from his perch as Australia’s premier player.
“I think it’s time we acknowledged we have an incredibly accomplished player that by virtue of her quiet nature doesn’t get the respect she deserves,” Woodbridge said.
Woodbridge says Stosur is “without doubt one of the most accomplished female athletes in Australian sport, not just tennis”.
“Again at this event she has outdone the men by far and yet the focus has been on others,” Woodbridge told AAP.
“The focus has been on Lleyton’s retirement and Nick and Bernard (Tomic’s) behaviour.
“The best part about Sam is she keeps letting her racquet do the talking.”
Stosur is also the last player to beat Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows and is three wins away from another potential final showdown with the Grand-Slam chasing defending champion and world No.1.
“The first step is getting to Serena and then she is one of few players left in the draw that can trouble her,” Woodbridge said.
Stosur said she was happy enough quietly progressing through the draw without the fanfare.
“It doesn’t really bother me. I’m happy to keep things low key,” she said after making the final 16 for the first time since her title defence three years ago.
A first-time win over Pennetta would advance Stosur to a quarter-final on Wednesday against either Czech fifth seed Petra Kvitova or Sydney-born Brit Johanna Konta.