Samantha Stosur, according to her coach David Taylor, is the opposite of a drama queen. But put her under the arc lights and she seems a natural for the big stage with all her poise and high-octane performances. If she appeared incredibly calm in disposing of Justine Henin in her previous game, the Australian was unflinching yesterday against Serena Williams and her thunderous serves and groundstrokes.
Her demeanour betrays no emotions and if her eyes hold any, they are cloaked by dark sunglasses. She did take them off after knocking the top-seed and world No 1 out of the French Open with a 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 8-6 quarter-final win. And she beamed for the cameras before hiding her face in the palm of her hands. Earlier, the match-point celebrations were a bit subdued too, just a throw of the hands in the air. Her celebration on an incredible cross-court winner that gave her a break and 7-6 lead in the deciding third set was a bit louder.
"I guess that's the goal, try to stay calm and not get frustrated or too emotional at any point in time in the match," explained Stosur. "But it's not always easy to do." She has done it comfortably over the last two matches, though, with memories of her idols Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, and their on-court composure, helping to keep the emotions in check. "I think my whole playing career I've been pretty much the same," she was quoted as saying on the official French Open website.
"Obviously I have my moments when I get more frustrated or angry on the court. It's something I try to keep a handle on. "I've always looked at my idols when I was growing up and see what they did. They didn't do that. They didn't throw their racket. They didn't, you know, go on about missed opportunities or mistakes." Stosur, 26, could have allowed herself a bit more extravagance after wins against current and former world No 1s, who have 19 grand slam titles between them.
Her own best performance at the four majors is a semi-final appearance at the French Open last year. She has matched that feat, but many believe she can beat Jelena Jankovic, the Serbian No 4 seed, in the semi-finals and go on to become the first Australian to win on the clay of Roland Garros since 1973. None of the four women's semi-finalists - Stosur, Jankovic, Francesca Schiavone of Italy and Elena Dementieva from Russia - have won a grand slam title, but Stosur should be favourite now given the two wins and her form on clay. Since the start of the French Open last year, she is 24-3 on the surface with a title in Charleston, South Carolina, and a runner-up finish to Henin in Stuttgart.
If Stosur does manage to get her name on the trophy, her amazing story will be told across the world. And it will usually start with the tale of the racket she was gifted for Christmas as an eight-year-old. She started playing on the local courts of Adelaide with her elder brother Daniel, who convinced their parents of her special talent. Still, Stosur was largely known as a doubles player for most of her early career, a very good one, though. After spending most of the 2007 and 2008 seasons on the sideline with injuries and illness, her focus changed and singles became a priority.
"The whole time I was doing well in doubles, I was always playing singles and trying to improve that side of my tennis," she says. "I had just done a lot better in doubles up until that point. "I guess having that illness and being away from the game maybe scared me a little bit to think, 'OK, I've got to go out there and play and really try and achieve what I've wanted to.' "It wasn't an easy decision, because it's not easy to kind of take a back seat to a successful partnership or anything like that. But I had to take the chance, and I think it's definitely paid off."