For the first time since her brisk upset of Serena Williams in September's U.S. Open final, Sam Stosur is back competing in the country where she won her first major tournament. The 27-year-old Australian is seeded sixth at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
"Samoid" spoke with amNewYork about her raised profile — and the nickname she'd like to forget:
It's been about six months — how does it ring to you now to be called the U.S. Open champion? It's still a very nice thing for people to say "Well done" and "Congratulations" and that all that kind of thing. I think it's definitely something that you're never going to get tired of hearing. Put it that way.
What if, God forbid, the U.S. Open is the only major you, what does it mean to win here? I'm never gonna be picky with, "If you're gonna win one, which one is it gonna be?" and I think it's not one of these things that you can kind of necessarily pick and choose. It's all about when you're gonna peak, and for me it happened at the U.S. Open. I had a really good leadup to the U.S. Open and played some really good tennis for the month before. I mean, I made the final of French Open a couple of years ago and nearly got a win there, too. So I think it's one of those things that's obviously very, very special, but I think to win any of those four majors would be a great achievement no matter which one it was.
How has it affected your standing in the locker rooms? I think a lot of people, maybe players or whoever else, maybe thought I had the game and the potential to possibly win a Grand Slam one day, but was I going to put it all together — and maybe some people felt like my one and only chance was gonna be the French Open final. And I lost that one. I think, since winning it, you definitely have that respect from players and whoever else — fans and the media and anyone. You've achieved what everyone wants to go out there and achieve. So I think you can't help but maybe — you've obviously got to respect that. And, for sure, I've admired a lot of players who've won Grand Slams; maybe that's the position that I could be in now.
How did maintaining a high level of fitness all those years keep you in position to finally achieve your Grand Slam goal? It's always been an important part of my game. It's something that I've enjoyed — working on that side of my tennis. I think if you do it year after year and you build on that, then you obviously get a much better base so you can make bigger improvements. Since coming back from when I was ill with Lyme disease [in 2007], it was a big process to get back healthy again. That was the first thing, being to make sure I was getting fit and healthy, and always working on my fitness. And a big part of being healthy is using the current USANA products that I'm currently sponsored by. They support the WTA as well, and I think that's always a great backup. But I think it is a huge point in my game that I have to be better — be fit, fast, explosive, strong — to be able to play my best tennis.
According to your WTA profile, your nickname is Samoid. Is that true? Yeah, that's something I'm probably never called anymore. That was back when I was about 15 or 16 in my junior days. Now, it's pretty mundane: Sam and Sammy. That's about it.
Did you embrace "Samoid" as a teenager though? I did, but not so much anymore. I still remember I was on a junior trip when i was 15, traveling through Europe, and for whatever reason the rest of the girls on the team made that my nickname and it kind of stuck for a couple of years.
Is it because they thought you were weird? I don't think so. I had very frizzy, bouffy hair. So maybe that was part of it. I don't know. Maybe I should contact them and find out exactly what the meaning behind it was. Hopefully it was nothing too mean. [Laughs]
Does the women's game need a dominant player? I don't like the fact when people put it that, "There's no dominant player so is women's tennis really that strong?" It might make a negative side of it. Obviously there's no real dominant player here at the moment because five different people have won, at least, the last five different Grand Slams. But I think a big part of that is the fact that everyone's level of tennis is getting better and better. The top players are getting better; the players 50 to 100 in the world, I think, I are much better than what 50 to 100 in the world was 10 years ago. So I think the level of competition is getting greater and greater. Obviously, there are some older players like the Venuses and Serenas, and established players that have been around a long time and may not necessarily be around for the next few years to come. But even when they come back, they don't dominate the sport. They don't go out and win every tournament. Obviously, Serena, I think, is probably the best player of the current generation without a doubt. She's a fantastic player, but she doesn't in every single event that she plays. So I think that the reason that we're in this moment that we are now is because it is highly competitive and I'm sure everything goes around in circles and everything's [cyclical] and we're in the stage now where there are multiple winners, and men are in a stage where there's three winners. At any given time, I think that could change, and maybe in men's tennis in years come they're going to be in the situation we are and then they're gonna get told their tour is a bit boring and gonna get told ours is better than theirs. I think it's one of those things that it goes around in cycles and we're in this particular one right now.
As a sports fan yourself, do you prefer when a team is dominating or do you prefer a revolving door of champions? I actually don't mind either way. I think sometimes it's great to know that if you've got a standout player or team, yes, they might go through and win. It might get boring if it happen all the time. But obviously it's a fantastic achievement for them and it's something you can really on their back and follow. And when it is maybe a little more surprising and less predictable, that keeps people really interested as well. To be honest, though, I don't feel favorable either way.
How did you maintain the belief since you turned pro in 2000 that you would reach the top 10, which you entered in your mid-20s? As you keep improving your tennis and you can see those improvements, it just makes you want to push forward and do more and more. I definitely felt like my tennis could get better and I think the big turning point for me was after I came back from Lyme and attained 30 in the world. I kind of hovered around there for a year or two and definitely thought I could get better than that. Just coming back the last four years, I've got better, my rankings got better, and just being able to stay there in the top 10 except one week I dropped down to 11 — for a week. So I think it's one of those things where if you can keep seeing that improvement and you get some good results along the way, obviously that keeps that desire and belief and all that kind of thing inside you.