The weight of home crowd expectations

As Samantha Stosur crashes out of the Australian Open, Al Jazeera asks if home support is a blessing or a curse.

    Samantha Stosur beat Serena Williams to win the US Open last year, but was unceremoniously dumped out of the first round of the Aussie Open in front of a disappointed home crowd [GETTY]

    Reining US Open champion Sam Stosur crashed out of the first round of her home Grand Slam on Tuesday.

    The Australian had spoken before the tournament about the pressures of playing in front of the Melbourne crowd and the sixth seed fell at the first hurdle, losing in straight sets.

    It is a common issue facing individual sportspeople who play at ‘home’. The public expects, and there is nobody to turn to when things are going badly.

    Amelie Mauresmo, the former world number one, has spoken frequently of the expectations placed on her shoulders at Roland Garros.

    “Instead of helping me, sometimes it just weighs on me," Mauresmo said in 2005.

    "'s a great opportunity to be playing in front of your home crowd. It should bring the best out of me but it doesn't. "

    - Amelie Mauresmo

    “And it shouldn't. I mean, it's a great opportunity to be playing in front of your home crowd. It should bring the best out of me but it doesn't..."

    The Frenchwoman never made it past the quarter-finals at the French Open, only making the third round seven times out of fourteen appearances.

    Long wait

    Great Britain has been waiting for a home grown Wimbledon champion since 1977, Tim Henman and Andy Murray reaching multiple semi-finals but never a final.

    So, what is the issue?

    Without the support of teammates, such as in football and rugby, individuals have to work through problems themselves.

    In a tennis match, the court can start to look very small, and the net very high. Having thousands of people behind you, the atmosphere can change very quickly when things are not going right.

    You can sense the disappointment, the tension, the fear and that can very quickly creep into your game.

    However, some players thrive on the home advantage. Ranked 187, Australian Jelena Dokic made a very memorable run to the Australian Open quarter-finals in 2009.

    And Bernard Tomic, the talented Australian 19-year-old, has already fought his way into the third round of this year’s draw.

    But perhaps it pays to not have a massive home tournament.

    Perhaps players such as Kim Clijsters and the now-retired Justine Henin, who both hail from Belgium, have the right idea. Between them, they have won 11 Grand Slam titles. Quite impressive for a country of 11 million people.

    Of the top ten players in the world of either sex, only five hail from a Grand Slam-hosting country.

    And of them, only Sam Stosur has won a Grand Slam title.

    Of course, the longer the wait goes on, the more pressure there will be. And seemingly, the more the pressure, the longer the wait.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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