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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11301


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (11:59): I will take this opportunity to pay tribute to the wonderful effort of Samantha Stosur in her victory at the US Open tennis tournament on 12 September 2011. Everyone who watched the game—in Australia, anyway—was thrilled with her achievement in becoming the first Australian woman to win the US Open since Margaret Court's day. Sporting success at the highest level is the result of skill, physical fitness and mental toughness. What we see at the victorious end of the championship final is the culmination of an elite athlete putting together all these factors. We the spectators do not see the endless hours of repetitive training and cross-training in skills, fitness and strength. We do not see the early mornings, the long hours or the injuries that come on the long path to success. We do not share the times of physical exhaustion, agony and self-doubt when we watch the final hours of the tournament and the lifting of the trophy. But what we and all Australians should acknowledge is that Samantha Stosur's great victory was created over many years of self-sacrifice and dedication. It was not luck, her turn or as a result of any greater reason than sheer determination, great skill, together with physical and mental toughness.

In watching the final I appreciated the superb shape that Sam Stosur was in. Clearly, she is a lady whose training regime includes weight training and that has assisted her in being in top condition. I sometimes wonder whether she is as tall as she looks but, when I saw Serena Williams standing next to her, she still looked smaller than Williams. I recall on that Monday morning watching the game on the television in the gym here in Parliament House and the first set had just ended. Clearly, Stosur was in command. However, as the first couple of games of the second set passed, we saw the crowd become almost ferocious in its support of Williams, a bit like the ferocity Williams displayed towards the umpire in the match. Williams fought back and broke Stosur and, for just two games, it looked as though Williams was on her way back. However, as testament to Stosur's mental fitness, she fired two aces and reverted to the dominant display that saw her win the first set. She then went on to win the remaining games of the match.

It was particularly at the start of the second set that the crowd strongly backed Williams and the applause for a Williams point was almost deafening. The tiered seating at such venues ensures that the enthusiasm and the noise of the crowd are focused on the players. Stosur was reported as saying: 'You know, it was probably the loudest I ever felt a crowd in my whole life. You're right in the middle of it. For sure it was difficult to stay focused and then obviously the crowd got heavily involved.'

In watching the match it was clear that the crowd lifted early in the second set and it was without any doubt that they wanted Williams to win. The timing of the match, being September 11, may well have been a factor but, in any case, it would have been extremely difficult for Stosur to continue playing at her best. It is therefore right that I make mention of these conditions as a factor when considering exactly what sort of an achievement this win was: a premier event, a very partisan crowd and against a very tough and in-form opponent.

As I said before, these accomplishments are achieved over long periods and when all aspects of one's training are brought together well. As has been reported, after suffering a disappointing third-round loss in South Carolina in April, Stosur worked with the Australian Institute of Sport psychologist Ruth Anderson. Apparently, it was quite a challenging time for Stosur but, again, it comes down to an elite athlete acknowledging the limitations in themselves, determining to be the best person they can be and, in this case, working to lift her mental toughness and position herself psychologically to strengthen her self-belief. Again, this is not something we are along to observe when we watch the final but it is, nevertheless, a vital aspect of an elite sportsperson as they strive to bring all factors together at the right time in order to achieve a victory.

Clearly, the struggle that Samantha Stosur has had and that which has held her back is her psychological resilience. A champion athlete, she has had her great skills and physical strength, and her overall performance, held back by this shortcoming on the psychological side. That shortcoming has clearly been fixed, as she overcame the most difficult of psychological challenges, being up against a very famous and very tough opponent in a very hostile venue.

I suspect that Samantha Stosur is ready, willing and now very able to take her place at the very top of competitive women's tennis and that we will regularly see her in semifinals and finals of the major tennis tournaments and, I hope, regularly winning them. I also suspect that the days of sleeping in dodgy hotels and scrimping and saving will become distant memories for Samantha Stosur.

I take this opportunity to congratulate her on her stunning victory in the US Open. May there be many more. I also hope that the children of Australia look to her as an example of how great success is achieved through hard work and dedication to your dreams, rather than a misplaced belief in luck.