If there wasn’t already enough expectation on Ash Barty ahead of the Australian Open, there is even more in the wake of Alex de Minaur’s decision to withdraw from his home Grand Slam.
But 2011 US Open Sam Stosur believes the world No. 1 has the mindset to cope with a weight of expectation that has crippled many players before her.
Unlike in most other sports, home ground advantage isn’t always an advantage in tennis.
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No Australian has won the singles title since Chris O’Neill won the women’s crown in 1978 – Mark Edmonson is the last men’s singles winner in 1976.
Andy Murray is the only Brit to win Wimbledon since 1977 – he saluted in 2013 and 2016 – and Mary Pierce is the only local winner at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah claimed the French Open in 1983.
Stosur has been in Barty’s position before – she fell in the first round of the 2012 Australian Open after winning the previous US Open – and knows the magnitude of the challenge the Queenslander is facing in the next fortnight.
“She isn’t just the best player in Australia, she is the best player in the world, so there will be plenty of focus on her,” Stosur told foxsports.com.au on Friday.
“There is obviously going to be that outside expectation on her, which I think she has been able to handle very well throughout her career anyway.
“It is a little bit different playing in Australia, no doubt, but I think for her, she will know how to focus.
“She knows what it takes to win a Slam having won it at the French, but the tricky thing is once you’ve done it once people think you can just do it again the next time around. We all know how difficult it is and it isn’t that easy.
“She really enjoys playing in these conditions and on these courts, so it the possibility of her having a really good tournament here is right up there.”
Barty will begin her Australian Open campaign against 30-year-old Ukranian Lesia Tsurenko, who is currently ranked No. 120 in the world, but was a career-high No. 23 less than 12 months ago.
“Tsurenko is a tough opponent,” Stosur said.
“The general public probably won’t know who she is, but she has had some big wins on the tour and we all know what she is capable of.
“First round can be tricky for every single player, whether you’re expected to win the whole thing or you’re a qualifier – there is that pressure.”
After falling to American Jennifer Brady in the first round of the Brisbane International, Barty has found form at the Adelaide International this week.
The 24-year-old faces Danielle Collins in the semi-final on Friday night after beating Anastasia Pavlyuchekova and Marketa Vondrousova,