Australian tennis champion and ASICS ambassador Samantha Stosur will be defending her US Open title in August. Find out how she prepares for the big tournament and faces the challenge of defending her crown.

In the 2011 US Open final, Sam Stosur beat favourite Serena Williams to become the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam tournament since 1980.

This summer, the tournament at Flushing Meadows will come with extra pressure for Sam as she starts as defending champion.

But it’s business as usual when it comes to training as she looks to stick with last year’s winning formula.

“I always plan on peaking during Grand Slam events,” she says. “So this year going into the US Open will be no different from normal. I will stay with a similar schedule as last year.

“There will be a little more pressure than normal,” she admits. “But it will also be so exciting to be the defending champion. Going back to New York and the memories I have there from last year will be great.

“I really love the playing conditions at the US Open so I look forward to having another great run there. The crowds in NYC are electric, especially at night, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Staying fit and healthy

It’s easy to think that preparing for a big tennis tournament means hour after hour spent on court. But that’s not the case for Sam.

Keeping fit and healthy is part of her everyday life whether she’s on court or not.

“Over the years I’ve learnt more about my body and how much work I have to do to maintain peak condition,” she says. “Being at peak fitness is also about maintaining a balanced healthy lifestyle, including eating well.”

“I really enjoy working out and even on my days off I am usually doing some sort of physical exercise, whether it’s swimming, surfing or rock climbing!”

Fitter, faster, stronger

Being among the best tennis players in the world means she is constantly honing her technique. And she has an expert team around her to help her stay at the top.

“I have a great trainer who I work with and we are constantly looking to become fitter, faster and stronger. I have tried to add more speed to my game the last couple of seasons so many of our exercises are speed based.

“I believe all top athletes need to have a team they believe inwho are experts in their specific field.”

Over the course of the season Sam adjusts her training for the different surfaces she plays on. But she is careful to keep focussing on her strengths.

“There are subtle changes that I make on each surface and my coach and I set our drills up to add various elements to my game for each,” she says. “On the flip side, it’s important to stay with the strengths in my game and not get away from what has made me successful in the past.”

Overcoming disappointment

But of course, tennis isn’t all about winning Grand Slams. Like any amateur, even the biggest names on the tour suffer their fair share of disappointment.

This spring Sam reached the semi-finals in the French Open, but was knocked out of Wimbledon in the second round. Picking herself up again ahead of the US Open is vital if she’s going to defend her title.

“I think overcoming disappointment is part of being a professionaltennis player,” she says. “The reality is that only one player wins each week, so unfortunately most players leave disappointed.

“I believe that if I work hard and consistently through each year, the results will come.

“The consistency of my hard work over the past few years has given me belief at times when things were not going as well. This has enabled me to bounce back from disappointments.”

Enjoying your game

As well as the mental side to the game there’s also the technical skills – something you’ll only master with practice.

“To improve you obviously have to put the time in on the practice court. Sometimes practicing can become monotonous, but being able to replicate the correct technique will lead to a more consistent level of performance.”

But whatever level you’re playing at it’s important to remember that it’s a social game, and the main thing is to enjoy it.

“Tennis is such a great social sport and I think finding people who you enjoy playing againstor a coach who is very motivating can really push your game to a higher level.”

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