Sydney FC players and coaches throw their support behind marquee Filip Holosko

Struggling to find the net: Filip Holosko. Photo: Brendan Esposito Game-breaker: Alex Brosque celebrates after cracking home the only goal of the game. Photo: Getty Images
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Sydney FC’s players and coaches threw their support behind under-firing marquee Filip Holosko after their million-dollar man failed to hit the back of the net against Newcastle Jets despite an abundance of good chances.

Holosko walked into the dressing room at half-time apologising to his coach and teammates after missing four sitters against Newcastle Jets and was in a sombre mood after the match. A flurry of chances fell to the 65-time Slovakian international who continuously put himself in goal-scoring positions by out-manoeuvring Jets defenders for the entire match.

However, his inability to hit the back of the net from a point-blank range header, a one-on-one, a close range shot and another in front of an open net left the player visibly upset after the match.

Holosko declined to talk to the media after the match, even though his coach and teammates were pleased with his overall performance that deserved at least one goal.

“Any player who hasn’t scored and is an attacking player is going to be frustrated but he’s creating chances so that’s the main thing and if he wasn’t, we’d be more worried. We support him and i”m sure he’ll break the goal drought soon,” defender Matt Jurman said.

“Filip’s a great guy and he’s very passionate and he wants to do very well for the team and at half-time he came in and said sorry but there was no need for that, we’re all a team, we all make mistakes and we go through the positives together. It’s no problem at all, next week he’ll probably score a hat-trick.”

“I thought he was excellent all night,” Arnold said. “The second half, he was very good. Anyone else could have thrown the towel in. The most important thing is that he keeps getting in those goal-scoring positions, it will come.”

At the other end of the field, Jurman continued his impressive form this season leading the Sky Blues to another clean sheet. The central defender has been ever-present for Sydney this season as their backline remained watertight for six of the nine games thus far.

“It’s been the same, both those players, they come in and do a good job so it makes it easier for me. It’s been the same for me every week, we work hard as a team, we try and make it hard to break down,” he said.

Partnered with Seb Ryall in favour of Senegalese international Jacques Faty, Jurman was forced to adjust to different defensive partners throughout the course of the season but says the task is easy given the familiarity with both players.

Jurman and Ryall have played alongside one another in some capacity for about a decade whether it be at youth representative level, the AIS or in the A-League.

“Me and Seba, we played together on and off since we were about 14 or 15. We were at the AIS together, the Oyroos, young socceroos so we’ve got a good understanding together. It’s great to have more clean sheets,” Jurman said.

Sydney FC face a nervous wait to see whether captain Alex Brosque will be fit to play against Adelaide United next Friday. Brosque scored the winner against the Jets on Friday night but was forced off the field late in the match with a hamstring injury.

Initial fears were that the 32-year-old suffered from cramp but Fairfax Media understands it could be a minor hamstring injury that will require scans to determine the extent of the problem.

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Tim McIntosh has the last laugh as Star Shaft wins at trainer’s first city runner

KIng for a day: Paul King rides Star Shaft to victory in the TAB Highway Handicap at Randwick. Photo: bradleyphotos南京夜网419论坛Tim McIntosh’s ex-girlfriend and former apprentice was supposed to be where he was standing after the Highway Handicap: in the winner’s stall, nervously smiling, wondering how it all happened so quickly.
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But as Samantha Clenton was strung up between horses and with nowhere to go on Greg Bennett’s previously unbeaten Clearly Innocent, McIntosh was cheering as Paul King sailed down the outside on Star Shaft to land the 24-year-old ex-jockey his first win with a Sydney starter.

“I was apprenticed to Pat Farrell when I was 15 years old and he is my great uncle,” the Muswellbrook-based McIntosh said. “That’s how I got involved. Pat’s been good for me and he has taught me a lot and I worked for him for a long time. It’s my first time here.

“They’ve got a big opinion of [Clearly Innocent], but I also like this horse. I think this will be his prep because we’ve finally got his feet right and he’s finally stepping right.”

McIntosh was at pains to point out farrier Tom Gallagher had worked overtime to get his unfashionable type back to the races. There is another man, Star Shaft’s managing part-owner Craig Benjamin, he was also thanking.

“He’s a nice young bloke, he’s an ex-jockey so he knows a bit about horses and he’s got a lovely family behind him,” Benjamin said. “I know the horses are always fed and he always rings me up. He’s just a good young trainer and he’s just on the way up.”

Benjamin was going to part with Star Shaft as a yearling after he and a mate pitched in to buy the horse’s dam, Good Question. He’s thanking his lucky stars he didn’t.

“We were going to sell the yearling, but we thought, ‘no, he looks too good in the paddock’,” Benjamin said. “We had an eye for him and put a few friends together [and raced him].”

Settling back in the field, King wheeled the horse to the outside and gunned down Highway Handicap specialist Matt Dale, who produced the runner-up Northern Fury. Another Canberra horse, Keith Dryden’s Bid Of Faith, was third.

King only came for one ride at Randwick. It proved more than enough and saved him a trip to Hawkesbury where “four or five” rides were waiting.

“My manager Wayne Harris rang and said, ‘Tim wants you to go and trial the horse. If you like it you can ride it in the Highway race’,” King said. “I went up and rode him in the trial and got in the car and said straight away to Wayne, ‘I want to ride him’.

“He’s run a lot of places in his short career, but it’s probably due to the fact he burns himself out too early and wants to go too hard. I consider that a strong Highway race – probably the strongest yet by a long shot – and I said to Tim if you can win that you will probably win a few Saturday races.”

Clenton? She said Clearly Innocent “will win next time”, making ground late after his traffic problems in the straight to finish sixth. McIntosh won’t have to wait until then.

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Women’s Big Bash League: Ashleigh Barty makes most of first hit-out for Brisbane Heat

At home: Ash Barty of the Heat looks comfortable at the crease. Photo: Getty Images Ashleigh Barty on Saturday proved she could slog it out with the best of them. In one of the year’s more surprising sports stories, the promising tennis player switched to cricket after a meeting with the national team convinced her of the benefits of playing a team sport.
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Barty notched up 39 runs for the Brisbane Heat in their first match of the Women’s Big Bash League against the Melbourne Stars, holding up under bowling pressure while the rest of the second half of the order fell away.

She was their second top-scorer after Grace Harris on 42, and managed two fours and a big six before she was bowled out by English import Natalie Sciver.

“I was just hoping it’d go over the rope really,” she said of her six. “I was just hoping it cleared it and I wasn’t out, and it was good.”

It was a whirlwind transition – as Barty herself recalled, less than two years ago she was facing tennis great Serena Williams on centre court.

Barty had decided to take an indefinite break from tennis, to spend time at home.

“For me it was a little bit too much too soon, I’d been travelling from when I was quite young and I just needed to spend time with my family,” she said.

“I’d done it previously when I’d just come home for a couple of weeks or months here and there, and this time I just didn’t put a time limit on it. I just wanted to enjoy myself and be around my friends and experience the life of a normal teenage girl.”

She still coaches tennis and has not ruled out a return to the sport competitively, saying Tennis Australia had been supportive of her code switch.

“It’s definitely been a big part of my life and I think forever will be,” she said. “I just think it’s great in cricket to come into a team environment, it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced it. It’s pretty exciting and I’m loving every moment.”

While Barty admits she is still learning the skills needed to take her to the top of the sport, at Junction Oval in Melbourne she used her considerable strength to show her selection was warranted.

Coming in at sixth position, she held her nerve as next in Sammy-Jo Johnson went for four, Jemma Barsby for nine and Kate Cross and Courtney Hill for ducks.

Barty said she had not set any particular goals for where she wants cricket to take her, but was enjoying the banter and camaraderie of her new sport.

“I’m just going with the flow, trying to enjoy it and hopefully score some runs and contribute to the team,” she said.

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Glenn Maxwell says batting, not bowling, will be key to Test recall bid

Maxwell gestures to the crowd during the World Cup match between Australia and Sri Lanka. Photo: Mark KolbeGlenn Maxwell accepts his prospects of returning to the Test team are hindered by his off-spin bowling not suiting selectors’ priorities for an all-rounder.
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The Victorian also said his poor start to the season, which included being dropped for one Matador Cup match for missing a training session, was because he was temporarily overwhelmed by his disappointment at missing the chance to revive his Test career in Bangladesh.

“It probably affected me more mentally than anything else,” Maxwell said of being selected in Australia’s squad for Bangladesh, but not being able to fulfil that because the tour was indefinitely postponed due to security concerns.

“I was pretty upset I was missing out on an opportunity to play for my country and really put a good step forward. After playing so well in the [post-Ashes] one-dayers in England I was really looking forward to taking that into the Tests, to have that series ripped away from me and the squad to change when we got back to Australia was pretty upsetting.

“It probably affected me too much, because it affected the way I played the game and the way I went about it. It didn’t reflect too well on myself … and it showed in my results as well.”

Maxwell had planned to rest during winter, excepting a Twenty20 stint for Yorkshire, but relented and played county cricket too because he wanted to focus on getting a Test chance in Bangladesh and making the most of it.

“I think it was because all the work I did in England … just felt null and void when the series ended up getting cancelled. It was pretty upsetting, because I felt like that whole winter was almost a bit of a waste. Looking back now, it’s never a waste of time,” he said.

“Since the [Sheffield] Shield stuff has started I’ve tried to put that all behind me … almost start from the bottom rung and work my way back up.”

Victoria’s success with the bat, and the positioning of Maxwell generally at No.6, has restricted his opportunities. The only time he has had a long stint at the crease came when he made 98 at home to Western Australia last month.

Even though Maxwell is pleased with the way he is bowling, he said he considered himself to be “a long way off as far as Test selection goes” for home series.

“I’m pretty understanding of where I sit in the Test rankings,” he said

“I’ve probably got to bowl some medium pace for a start, and probably spin the ball the other way to Nathan Lyon [to be considered as a Test all-rounder].”

“I know if I come in and spin the ball the same way as Nathan Lyon it’s … more likely I’ll be used to get through some handy overs, rather than be a key bowler. I’m understanding that I need to have a weight of runs and consistent wicket-taking, as a partnership-breaker type of bowler.”

Maxwell’s only three Tests have all come abroad: two in India in 2013 and one last year against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.

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Canberra Raiders plot plan to re-sign Ricky Stuart as club chases premiership

Team building: The Raiders are keen to extend coach Ricky Stuart’s contract. Photo: Melissa Adams The Canberra Raiders will build finals incentives into a new contract offer to coach Ricky Stuart, chairman Alan Hawke declaring the club champion has laid the building blocks to break a two-decade premiership drought.
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The Raiders are on the verge of locking Stuart into a new deal until at least 2018, with potential options to extend his tenure even further if the Green Machine clicks into gear.

Stuart is on a mission to turn the Raiders back into premiership contenders and, despite a lean two years since taking the reins, Hawke says it’s time to extend his tenure into the future.

It is expected an extension will be finalised when Stuart returns from a fact-finding mission in the United States next week with an announcement likely to coincide with a new sponsorship deal on December 16.

Stuart’s contract expires at the end of next year, but the Raiders initiated negotiations with Stuart three weeks ago rather than wait to see if the club will be a premiership contender.

“Ricky has had more success at recruitment and getting players to come to Canberra than we’ve had in recent years. They’re coming because Ricky is the coach,” Hawke said.

“The players who are signing and re-signing will want some certainty about how long Ricky is staying.

“I’ve always thought it would be 2016 before we see the proof of Ricky’s program, his recruitment and the values that drive the players.

“I’ve got no doubts about whether it’s working, I’m convinced it’s working. I’d be incredibly disappointed if we’re not really competitive next year. That’s what we’ve been working on – getting the right squad.”

The Raiders’ decision to negotiate with three-time Canberra premiership winner Stuart follows the ACT Brumbies’ move to lock in coach Stephen Larkham.

Stuart and Larkham guided the Raiders and Brumbies respectively through their golden eras and are now trying to win premierships for their clubs for the first time since they were players.

Larkham’s negotiations have been put on hold for beyond the 2016 Super Rugby season as he concentrates on re-signing players and retaining his squad.

The Raiders have already re-signed Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton, with England international Josh Hodgson expected to follow in the coming weeks and Aidan Sezer, Blake Austin and a host of players already committed to a long-term future in the capital.

Hawke and Raiders Group chief executive Simon Hawkins took charge of negotiations with Stuart and “we just need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s”.

Hawke said the finer details of Stuart’s deal were still being finalised, with the length of the extension, finals incentives and a post-coaching career on the cards.

Hawke hoped that Stuart would be interested in helping the club off the field in an administration role whenever he decided to finish coaching.

“Ricky’s here for the long-term now. We’re after stability. Stability in the board, stability in the funding arrangements, the administrative staff and the coaching staff,” Hawke said.

“I think we’ve got all of that and now we just need stability in the playing ranks and results. That’s what we’re all in this for. We want success for the club, the fans and the sponsors.”

The Raiders haven’t made the finals since the 2012 season and Stuart has revamped the playing roster since taking over in 2014.

There are just five players left from the 2013 campaign with Stuart injecting new blood to ensure long-term success.

The club has won just 18 of 48 games over the past two seasons, but were in finals contention to the last rounds of the 2015 season.

“We could have made the top eight last year but the players learnt so much over that year. You see that Ricky is a different coach … as a playing group, they’ve grown after what happened last season and that will serve them well next year,” Hawke said.

The Raiders are also closing in a new double major-sponsor deal. The arrangement would split Huawei and another company as the major backers of the team.

“We’ve got a lot of people who are rusted-on Raiders fans and we need to settle on if we can have two sponsors on the front [of the jersey],” Hawke said.

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Liam Pickering denies he unlawfully took $90,000 from Scott Pendlebury

High-profile player agent Liam Pickering says that allegations he unlawfully took $90,000 from Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury are “100 per cent” not true.
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Lawyers acting for Pickering’s former business partner Jason Sourasis, a player agent at Strategic Sports Management, told the Supreme Court during the week that Pickering had taken the money from the Magpies star when Pickering and Pendlebury parted ways late last year.

But appearing on his weekly SEN radio program Off the Bench, Pickering, who left Strategic in May last year to set up Precision Sports and Entertainment Group, denied that was the case.

“What actually happened, and I’m happy to clear this one up, is that Scott Pendlebury decided he was going to manage himself…so not be managed by Strategic,” Pickering told SEN.

“He wasn’t coming to Precision.

“I said, ‘well we’ve got all these deals with major companies like Gatorade and McDonald’s and Telstra’, and I said, ‘how do you want me handling the invoicing of that?’

“So he said ‘just invoice it.’ And I said, ‘no worries, what happens with the commission?’

“And he said, and he may say he didn’t, but he did [say], ‘commission it as per normal. You did the deal, no problems.’ “

Rather than unlawfully take $90,000, Pickering said he “actually deposited $110,000 in his account the day it came in.”

“No one unlawfully took money from his account. We deposited money into his account.

“Pendles is a good bloke. But no money was taken from Scott Pendlebury, regardless of what was written in the newspaper. It’s just not true.”

Pickering is counter-suing Sourasis, alleging that he engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. Sourasis initially sued Pickering, alleging he lost more than $2.5 million after 31 players and coaches terminated their contracts with Strategic and joined Precision.

The case continues on Monday.

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Sheffield Shield: Top-placed Victoria seeking revenge against South Australia

Victoria are looking to their Sheffield Shield match against South Australia as an opportunity to both buttress their position atop the table at the halfway mark of the season and also for revenge against the Redbacks for eliminating them from the Matador Cup.
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“It’s pretty tight among second, third and fourth … so if we win this it’ll set up a decent gap,” the Bushrangers’ Glenn Maxwell said, of the match against the second-placed Redbacks starting at the MCG on Sunday.

“South Australia had the better of us during the Matador, outplayed us in those two games … their bowling attack just had something over us. We’ve got a bit of work to do to turn the tables on them.”

Victoria regain Josh Hastings from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him from their past three matches, while SA are unchanged.

Bushrangers opener Travis Dean enjoyed a record-breaking start to his first-class career, making 154 not out, 109 not out and 84 in his first three innings. His next three, however, have produced only 25 runs, with the 23-year-old falling for a golden duck in the second innings of their match last week away to Western Australia.

Maxwell reckoned Dean’s recent experience had demonstrated that “first-class cricket isn’t the easiest thing in the world”.

“I can imagine what he was going through after those first two games – they were incredible innings, and to show that amount of patience was absolutely outstanding and showed his maturity,” Maxwell said. “He’s got a couple of good balls since, but you can just tell by the way he’s training that he’s ready to go. He’s got a really good head on his shoulders. I don’t think it’s going to affect him too much.”

Victorian fast bowler Scott Boland will play in the match, despite being named as a standby member of Australia’s squad for the first Test against the West Indies. Should one of Australia’s fast bowlers be ruled out of the match, starting next Thursday at Blundstone Arena, due to injury or workload, Boland will fly to Hobart and be replaced in the Bushrangers’ line-up.

VICTORIA (from): Aaron Finch (c), Fawad Ahmed, Scott Boland, Dan Christian, Travis Dean, Peter Handscomb, John Hastings, Glenn Maxwell, Clint Mckay, Rob Quiney, Marcus Stoinis, Chris Tremain.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA (from): Travis Head (c), Nick Benton, Tom Cooper, Mark Cosgrove, Callum Ferguson, Jake Lehmann, Tim Ludeman, Joe Mennie, Alex Ross, Chadd Sayers, Daniel Worrall, Adam Zampa.

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Kris Lees, James McDonald warm up for Hong Kong trips with Felines win

05122015. Sydney Races. Jockey James McDonald rides Felines to win race 7, The Swim Between The Flags Handicap, during Sydney racing at Royal Randwick Racecourse. photos:bradleyphotos南京夜网419论坛 Photo: Bradley PhotosSWIM BETWEEN THE FLAGS HANDICAP
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Kris Lees and James McDonald may have the Hong Kong Cup at the front of their minds for differing reasons, but the pair combined to help Sydney’s leading jockey to a seemingly  standard four-timer at Randwick on Saturday.

McDonald bagged the last of his quartet on Lees’ smart mare Felines and will now turn his attention to the International Jockeys Challenge at Happy Valley on Wednesday night before partnering Japan’s Satono Aladdin in the Hong Kong Cup next Sunday.

Lees will also fly out for the Asian racing mecca on Monday to put the finishing touches on invitee Lucia Valentina for the Hong Kong Cup. Damien Oliver will ride her.

McDonald’s post-spring schedule shows no signs of slowing down with Godolphin to whisk him back to Sydney to ride It’s Somewhat in the group 2 Villiers Stakes next Saturday in between his Hong Kong engagements.

“I have never been so fit in my life and I’m really enjoying it,” McDonald said after bagging earlier wins on Astern, Medcaut and Fitou for the Godolphin blue.

“It’s the only reason that has kept me going [post spring], otherwise I would have had a little break. That’s why I’ve been riding so well and getting on these good horses.”

Felines may never find herself a contender for an international crusade, but Lees has certainly worked wonders with Gerry Harvey’s mare and she never looked in any doubt after McDonald peeled to the centre of the track.

Felines cruised to a one-and-a-quarter length win from Mahican with a speedy Quartzite a neck further back in third.

“She just got exposed a little earlier than I was hoping for being first-up, but she is quite effective fresh,” Lees said. “She’s got a really good turn of foot when she is held up and goes bang.

“If you look back at her form she was home and a thing called Winx got up and beat her on the line. I ran her the next week and she ran off the track and Shooting To Win got up and beat her.

“She ran off the track with young Taylor Marshall on and it was my fault for putting an apprentice on that day and she got a few bad habits out of it and it took a little while to get back on track.”

The day ended with a careless riding suspension for McDonald after he tried to force a run at the top of the straight on Duca Valentinois giving Makeadane a significant bump in the Choose Segenhoe Handicap.

McDonald pleaded guilty to careless riding and was given a fiv- meeting suspension. It will start after he rides at the Hong Kong International meeting on Sunday and  end on December 27.

“You tried to force a run where there was no sniff of run,” chief steward Ray Murrihy told McDonald.

The ultimate racing guide with the latest information on fields, form, tips, market fluctuations and odds, available on mobile, tablet and desktop.

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Mark Winterbottom seals title on streets of Sydney on emotional day

Mark Winterbottom is kissed by his wife Renee after he clinched the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship. Photo: Mark Horsburgh Winterbottom with his son, Austin, after the race. Photo: Mark Horsburgh
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Mark Winterbottom drove with pace, patience and professionalism to cement his first V8 Supercar championship at Sydney’s Olympic Park street circuit on Saturday.

In emotional scenes after wrapping up the title, the 34-year-old immediately paid tribute to his mother June, the woman who brought him up alone but who died from cancer four years ago – too soon to see her son achieve his greatest triumph.

“It’s awesome, I had a few tears in my eyes on that final  lap. I am so emotional … to have mum on the helmet all year, I wish she was here, I am speechless.

“I am over the moon. I have been with Ford a long time, been with the team for a long time, but we got it done,” he said seconds after stepping out of his title-winning Falcon.

The Ford driver has been one of the most consistent men in the series for the past decade, but had always come up short as contemporaries Jamie Whincup (six titles between 2008 and 2014) , James Courtney (2010), Garth Tander (2007), Rick Kelly (2006), Russell Ingall (2005) and Marcos Ambrose (2004) all won championships after  he made his full time debut 11 years ago This time he finally got his reward, but he had to wait until the penultimate race of the season to make sure.

Veteran Craig Lowndes managed to keep the fight for the title going until the second of the 125-kilometre races around the Olympic Park precinct on Saturday afternoon, but Winterbottom, who put on an assured display all day, was not going to be denied this time.

Winterbottom came to the final weekend of the season holding all the aces, and on Saturday everything that could have gone right for him did, while for Lowndes, who remained a mathematical chance of winning, everything went wrong.

Winterbottom put his Prodrive Racing Falcon on pole position for the first race, while Lowndes, on a hot lap during qualifying, put his  Holden into the wall.

That meant Lowndes had to start from the back of the grid, while his adversary was able to control his own destiny from the front.

Winterbottom showed pace and patience in equal measure as he decided not to indulge in a death-or-glory gamble to win the race but to stay out of trouble, finish as close to the front as he could, and pick up as many points as possible.

Lowndes had no option but to go flat out from the start. He opted for an adventurous strategy by staying out as long as he could before taking his compulsory pit stop on lap 24 of the 37, hoping to make up track position by pitting out of the normal sequence.

It worked up to a point, as the 41-year-old climbed from 25th to finish 15th behind his Triple Eight teammate  Whincup, who was scoring his  seventh race win of 2015. Whincup  finished the campaign strongly, but not enough to keep him  in the hunt for what would have been an extraordinary fifth successive title. The individual race may go to the fastest, but the championship ends up with the man who is consistently quick through the season.

Winning a title requires speed and power, but it also calls for race smarts, tactical awareness and a strong support crew.

Winterbottom, who has been with Ford throughout his career, will proudly carry the No.1  on his door in 2016.

He said he “can’t wait” to have the number one sticker on the side of his Falcon when he suits up to defend his crown next season.

The Melbourne-based Sydneysider hailed his first win as the culmination of everything he had spent a lifetime working to achieve.

“Everything that you have ever raced to get here has been an achivement…. and I have stayed at the one team for such a long time, it’s years of work.

“To win one (title) is fantastic, it a piece of history…2015 champion, it can never be taken off (me),” he said.

“It’s going to be awesome to have that on the door. Number one is really cool to put on the door.

“I am really proud of everyone….I was tearing up at the end. It’s an emotional thing… to get the ultimate reward, it pours out…

“It pieces together all the years of hard work and results. Bathurst (which he won in 2013) was the first part of it. It just feels like you have finished something you started a long time ago.”

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Australian Open Tennis 2015: Sam Stosur says more is yet to come

Sam Stosur will be ending  2015 in a lower ranking than at any time since 2008, but also in a different headspace.
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The 31-year-old says she cares less about chasing consistency via the weekly tournament grind, and more about prioritising and enjoying what matters most in the time she has left on the tour.

Stosur has accepted that she is still capable of following a horrible loss one week with a brilliant upset of a top-five player the next. Her attitude is thus more philosophical than it once was; a subject the world No.27 (yes, still top 30, after an Australian-high two-title year) discussed with coach David Taylor once the pair rejoined forces in April, after 20 months apart.

“Obviously whatever tournament you’re at, you’re still there and you’re still trying 100 per cent, but maybe you’re practising a few things more – kind of almost being a little bit easier on yourself,” Stosur said, before heading off to Asia for a late IPTL call-up.

“When I was top 10 for those four years or so, you live and die on every single match, and it gets really tiring, and I think that’s part of this thinking now: I don’t want to be crazy and be really angry for three days after I lose a match, but also look at it a bit more big-picture and realise ‘OK, yep, there are going to be losses, there are going to be wins and let’s kind of just carry on and roll with everything’.”

Clearly, the bar needs to be lowered, given Serena Williams has been winning most of the slams, anyway, and that the US Open that somehow got away acted as a welcome encouragement to the Australian who won the title in 2011. This time it was Flavia Pennetta’s New York fairytale; her fellow Italian understatement Roberta Vinci having so kindly slayed the American giant in the semis.

Stosur has a dreadful 0-7 record against Pennetta, who duly beat her in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, and so has immense respect for her game. But the fact that the now-retired, soon-to-be Senora Fognini had reached five previous quarter-finals and one semi at hardcourt majors made it less of a shock to those on the inside than looking from afar.

To Stosur, it was also something else. “It’s definitely motivating for players like me,” she says. “Flavia  did drop with injury and has been able to stick it out and put it all together in that right moment, so you know that it’s definitely possible.”

Does Stosur, realistically, have another slam in her? Even just the faint, hopeful, sniff of one? “Look, I don’t see why not. It’s obviously very difficult, and you don’t know, and you’ve got to work your butt off and a lot of things have got to go right for that fortnight, but I feel like if I’m able to train and do all these things, I still think that when I’m playing my best, my tennis is still good enough to do very well. Whether that’s to win a slam, who knows? But I still feel like I’m capable of having good results.”

Yes, but Williams, along with now-retired Li Na, are two exceptions to the general over-30s-struggle-to-win-gals’-majors rule. Stosur acknowledges that, and that she is “definitely” feeling more bodily aches and pains in her senior years, while pointing out that at least those elderly citizens who have defied the trend have done it more regularly in recent years “than ever before, so that’s a good thing in my favour”.

Another motivation is to regain the Australian No.1 ranking seized by Bernard Tomic in September, which ended his fellow Queenslander’s six-and-a-half-year stay at the summit. She likes the view from up there, Stosur admits, and believes the waning motivation she identified as missing about April 2014 and re-found in unusual circumstances – a tough Fed Cup defeat to German Andrea Petkovic last  February, 10-8 in the fifth – leaves her better placed to enjoy it again.

“That match was a bit of a turning point for me. I finally felt like I really enjoyed that fight and the competitiveness. Looking back, I didn’t actually play that great but hung in there with lots of other good stuff and I think that was kind of where I was able to turn it around a bit this year.”

And if she hadn’t? Visions of curtain closing and warm applause? “I don’t know,” says the three-time Olympian, who is determined to make it four in Rio next year. “I would have kept going, but I think it just would have been harder and maybe taken a bit longer to believe in my tennis again and produce some better tennis.”

However heartfelt the ovation, it is, in fact, impossible to imagine a non-tennis public stage for the very private Stosur, who is almost the anti-Kyrgios/Tomic. Approachable and friendly like Bernie, yes, but never with any questions over her commitment or work ethic, or preference for partying over practicality. Ask what she makes of the young lads’ behavioural shenanigans, generally, and she chuckles.

“They’re famous, or however you want to put it, because they’re tennis players, so I’d rather be making headlines for what you’re doing on the court rather than maybe some silly things off the court or silly things that you’re doing on the court,” she says.

“That’s just me and that’s the way I look at it and the way I’ve kind of always been, but you can’t deny that Bernie and Nick are exceptional tennis players and they have the potential to have great careers, so if I was them I’d kind of be looking at that and thinking ‘you know, I’ve got a real shot to do something pretty spectacular, so put everything into that and do all the other stuff afterwards’.”

Does she sometimes shake her head at some of the goings-on? Pause. “Ah, yep, but I don’t think I’m the only one who does that.”

In the meantime, she is preparing in Osaka, Manila and then Sydney to go around again, back to her old home (Queensland) to start another summer at the Brisbane International, and then her adopted one (Sydney), before yet another venture to (Melbourne’s) heartbreak hotel. Let’s not rehash the stats here, but just leave it at never-an-Open-quarter-finalist, and out-in-the-second-round in 2015.

So to January, and a 14th Australian Open beckons. “There’s only going to be so many summers left for me, and I don’t really have much to defend at all, so it’s going out there and enjoying those moments,” Stosur says. “I feel like last year I played pretty well, and got beaten by a player (Coco Vandeweghe) who was better on the day, so that’s the way it goes sometimes, but I feel like I’m doing what I can to have a really good summer.”

How many are left? “Um, well, realistically there’s probably only a few where I’m going to be playing close to my best, or my best. I know that, but I don’t think about it every day; it doesn’t necessarily worry me. I guess the thing that I do think about is I want to enjoy those moments, because who knows how many more times you’re going to walk out onto Rod Laver Arena.”

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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