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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11303


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (12:07): What a year for Australian sport—winning the Bledisloe Cup, Sally Pearson running a world-championship-winning 100-metre hurdles, Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France and now Samantha Stosur becoming the Women's US Tennis Open Champion; indeed, the first Australian since Margaret Smith Court in 1963. Interestingly, both Sally Pearson and Sam Stosur went to the same school.

Australia is known for its sporting prowess, and I think there are very few people who can remember growing up without the memory of backyard cricket, kicking a ball around or swimming at the beach. But, while we all grow up with these great sporting memories, the feats of our sporting champions like Samantha Stosur take years of sacrifice and dedication and a driving ambition to reach the pinnacle of their particular sport.

Samantha Stosur has this in droves—natural talent combined with a will to win. She is an inspiration not only to our young tennis players but to all who strive to achieve their best in their chosen field. This is particularly the case with Sam, as not too long ago she was sidelined for a year of her career, suffering from the debilitating Lyme disease. This illness happened at a time when Sam was just hitting her stride as a single player and, as we all know, a year out from the intense training and tour circuit with which all your competitors are engaged puts you a long way behind the pack. This illness definitely seems to have left its mark on Sam, who lists one of her greatest fears in life as 'deer tick-carrying Lyme disease'. But, more than that, Sam is quoted as stating that it was this time away from the game—not by choice—that taught her to evaluate what she really wanted from the game and truly appreciate the opportunities she had to achieve her ambition to become a tennis champion. She has, without doubt, engaged this attitude, and we as Australians can now celebrate our first women's grand slam winner in 31 years.

One of the great things about Sam Stosur and her win is that it shows what can be achieved with perseverance and a willingness to take help from others and re-evaluate your life. Sam tells stories of how devoted and supportive her entire family was to her love of tennis. It was her brother who originally convinced their parents to put Sam into tennis lessons at the age of 13. After joining the Queensland Academy of Sport and later the Australian Institute of Sport Sam travelled the gruelling satellite tours on a shoestring budget, even sleeping at a Japanese train station on a makeshift bed of bags strapped together, with pillows from the plane. In typical Aussie style though, Sam notes this as one of her favourite memories. Therein lies one of the reasons for Sam's tremendous following around Australia. She has a great humility and extreme generosity. She loves to compete and cares far more about the sport and playing than she does about the fanfare and success.

While we are celebrating Sam Stosur's US Open win, it has long been known that, on the court, Sam has sometimes being overcome by self-doubt and, while always giving it her all, has sometimes fallen at the last hurdle unable to break through her own psyche. I think that this is, in part, what makes Sam's win so inspiring. She had the courage to ask for help to overcome the mental challenges of the game and acknowledged that physical fitness is not the only factor for success. This is an important message for all Australians, be they aspiring sporting champions or not, that mental wellbeing is just as important in life as physical wellbeing, and that is it okay to ask for outside help to get a different perspective on your problems and concerns. It helped Sam Stosur win the US Open and that is a pretty big endorsement.

I know that Sam would also want us to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of her support team, all of whom are Tennis Australia employees. Sam's success is also a great achievement for that organisation, which has been with Sam from the beginning and has encouraged her to take full advantage of the resources that were made available to her through the programs. Winning a grand slam is not something you achieve on your own and not many people win these titles. After all, it has been 31 years since Evonne Goolagong Cawley's Wimbledon win of 1980.

The good news for Australia is that people do not need to travel overseas to see Sam in action. Tennis Australia is delighted that Sam is a confirmed starter for the Brisbane International in January 2012. This is very good news for her growing number of younger fans. Tennis Australia has advised me that, in the past few weeks, there has been a huge increase in the number of young girls taking up tennis, so now her influence has transcended from the tennis court to every household in Australia. Director Craig Tiley on behalf of the whole team at Tennis Australia described Sam as:

… a very special person who has had to endure significant hardship, but has always had a planned pathway to success. We are particularly proud of the way she has gone about her journey. We are certain that this is just the beginning for Sam, and that this is the first of many great accomplishments with many more to achieve.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to join with many others congratulating Samantha Stosur on her inspiring US Open tennis grand slam win. She is truly a young Australian woman of whom we are all very proud. She is a great ambassador for tennis, a great ambassador for women and a great ambassador for Australia.