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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Night Tests’ best hope: white balls and coloured gear

Cricket Photo: smh Illustration: Mick Connolly
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Test match night cricket has passed the clinical trial phase and is ready to go to market. The Adelaide Test received even better press than Malcolm Turnbull in his second coming.

In Adelaide, the stands were full, the ratings robust and the cricket itself was dramatic. The experiment was so successful that it warranted a wistful question: why did it take them so long to do this?

Test cricket could have been played at night for the past 35 years. Had it been tried earlier, the long form of the game would be healthier.

In 1978, I persuaded my father to take his 11 and 12-year-old sons out to what was then VFL Park to watch a World Series Cricket day-night “supertest” between the Australians and the West Indies. Dad was inclined towards traditional cricket, while I was having a bob each way on Bobby Simpson’s second XI and the WSC team that featured the Chappells, Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and much of the team that whipped the Windies in 1975-76.

As a consequence of Kerry Packer’s commercial revolution, night cricket became entrenched for 50-over one-dayers, but the sport’s innate inertia – the same conservatism that had prompted Packer’s breakaway circus – prevented the logical leap into the Test arena.

Now that this overdue step has been made, we should see at least two day-night Tests each summer. One in Adelaide, one in Brisbane and/or Perth.

But as night cricket shone in Adelaide, there was a glitch. The contentious pink ball wasn’t as easily sighted under lights as the red one in daylight. Bowlers seemed heavily favoured by the combination of a pink ball and night light. The game ended in three days, despite the Australians losing their premier bowler, Mitch Starc, early in play.

The wicket, admittedly, was intentionally made greener, because of uncertainty about whether the pink ball would withstand a hard track. But the point remains that the bowlers were tickled pink.

A balance between bat and ball is one of the traits that distinguishes Test  cricket from the short forms. Too often lately, that balance has been tilted towards the bat – look at Steve Smith’s current average (56.08) compared to the great Viv Richards’ career number (50.23).

The pink ball, from what we’ve seen, will likely reverse that trend and put batsmen on the back foot. Player feedback from the recent night games played at Sheffield Shield level was that the pink panther was harder to see. Further evidence of an issue came in the field at Adelaide – how often does Steve Smith drop two regulation catches?

The pink problem, however, can be redressed by switching to a white ball – the same little sphere that has been used in 50-over day-night games since World Series Cricket.

Ditching the pink ball would also mean discarding the traditional white gear and introducing coloured clothing for night Tests. I challenge any crusty, traditionalist to come up with a genuine, practical reason why Test cricket would be corrupted by coloured clothing.

For some rusted-on Test lovers, this change of gear will be viewed as a crime of fashion. Forget that coloured clothing has been a fixture in one-dayers for decades. Forget that the clothing has no bearing on the quality of cricket. Forget that young people will find the colours more enticing, that it should be easier for spectators, too, to keep sight of the ball and would enhance the televisual experience.

Under the ideal scenario, night Tests would mandate coloured clothing and a white ball, while the Boxing Day and Sydney new year Tests remain white (gear) and red (ball). Wimbledon has stuck with traditional white clobber, the other grand slam events haven’t. I don’t see Test cricket as much different from the tennis majors.

The other “problem” with the white ball is that it wears out faster than the regular red and quickly fades to grey. From what one gathers, bowlers won’t get much shine or swing after 10 overs.

Obviously, the answer to this would be to change white balls more regularly. We could have new balls every 25 overs. This would give back to the bowlers a smidgen of the advantage they’d forfeit with the banishment of the pink ball.

The white ball has been road-tested since the late 1970s. The pink sibling is unproven and has fewer runs on the board. Neither is long-lasting, a surprising technological failure.

Watching the wickets tumble in his home town, former Australian spinner Ashley Mallett (a veteran of white balls in WSC), wondered if there was a psychological factor at play, if the Australian and Kiwi batsmen were spooked by a perceived difficulty with a pink ball, rather than the reality.

Mallett believes the seam of the pink ball is harder to read in flight, but on the whole, said “I’d prefer a pink ball to a white ball for Test cricket. But I can understand what you’re saying.”

But the ’70s spinner agreed that Test cricket needed to be “jazzed up” and welcomed coloured clothing, particularly for the subcontinent, where Test cricket was weak at the box office. “It would create a bit of enthusiasm in the subcontinent.”

It’s far more crucial that Test cricket retain relevance to younger people, and even expand beyond Australian and English shores, than that it sticks with trappings such as white clothes, red balls or a particular number of overs for new balls.

What matters most is that Test cricket’s essential elements remain intact. These are that it takes at least four days, and that this time produces a variety of outcomes and plot twists that the fast-food forms can’t replicate.

A white ball would improve the game’s night life. Cricket, for so long unwilling to schedule Tests when people want to watch them, must seize the night.  

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Mooloolaba wharf assault perpetrator shouldn’t have gone to jail

A man’s jail sentence for a Mooloolaba assault has been overturned.A former Navy seaman who punched a man in the face and knocked another unconscious should never have been sent to prison, a district court judge has found.
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Matthew David Scott Payne was sent to jail for 18 months with parole after three, after pleading guilty to assault occasioning bodily harm during a night out on the Sunshine Coast.

But in reasons published on Friday, Maroochydore District Court Judge John Robertson found the presiding magistrate made “multiple errors both in law and in fact” and the 29-year-old should never have gone to jail.

“It is very unfortunate that the appellant has served 2 ½ months in prison, when the proper exercise of sentencing discretion should not have led to any actual imprisonment,” he stated.

“In re-sentencing the appellant, I have to take into account that he has already been seriously punished by being incarcerated.”

The Australian Defence Medal recipient, who spent five years in the Navy, was partying on a boat moored near Underwater World at Mooloolaba in the early hours of February 22.

He was kicked off the boat and went on to punch one man, who some witnesses said was involved in removing him from the vessel, in the face more than once about 5.30am.

In a fight with another man he punched him once to the side of the face hard enough to knock him out.

The victim, who’d been drinking with Payne on the boat after meeting that morning, got back up and continued the fight but was taken to Nambour Hospital about an hour later with facial fractures.

In justifying his decision, Judge Robertson said the magistrate had failed to analyse a series of complex facts of the case and made a “significant factual error” in describing the complainant as having suffered a “disfigurement”.

He inferred the magistrate had not read one of the judgements he relied upon in sentencing and rejected the initial ruling that the case involved “gratuitous violence”.

More weight should have been given to mitigating factors including post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from an assault in naval training and a break-up with the mother of his two daughters, who he was caring for full-time when sentenced.

On November 25, Judge Robertson upheld Payne’s appeal and re-sentenced him to 15 months’ probation and 40 hours’ community service, with no conviction recorded.

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Sharni Williams injured as Australian women’s sevens claim world series win in Dubai

The Australian women’s sevens team continues to stakes its claim for an Olympic Games medal, smashing Russia 31-12 in the opening round of the world series in Dubai.
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With Canberra star and captain Sharni Williams out of action with a knee injury, the women’s team did not miss a beat as they brushed aside New Zealand 15-12 in the quarter finals and then cruised past France 26-0 in the semi-finals.

It is an ominous warning to their rivals before rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in Rio next year, as the team establishes itself as a gold-medal contender.

Coach Tim Walsh said: “It was our day today, but it was by no means a fluke.We showed composure and an ability to solve problems on our feet.”

The win over reigning world champions New Zealand gave Australia a perfect boost going into the knockout rounds.

“It’s always unbelievable to beat them. I say that out of respect as, in my eyes, New Zealand is the pinnacle of rugby union.”

ACT Brumbies winger Henry Speight continued his Olympic journey, taking the first steps along his path to Rio when he helped the men’s team advance through the pool stages.

Speight will play Super Rugby and sevens next year as he chases an Olympic dream.

In the women’s event, grand final surprise packets Russia, who defeated the Kiwis 33-7 in pool play, were organised early on.

But New Zealand-born Amy Turner eventually made the pressure tell when she scored on the right, before a brilliant offload from Ellia Green released Nicole Beck to cross over.

Russia, with two quick tries, threatened a boilover but their joy was short-lived as Ellia Green sprinted 50 metres on the left to score.

Further tries to Emilee Cherry and Evania Pelite completed a convincing display.

Australia were forced to play the cup final with only 10 players available with forwards Williams (knee) and Chloe Dalton (arm) ruled out.

Both will have further assessment next week back in Sydney. The second leg of the world series will be held in Brazil in mid-February.

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Capalaba woman charged with Brisbane man’s weekend murder

Police are investigating the discovery of a man’s body in Capalaba. Bushland at Degen Rd, Capalaba. Photo: Google Street View
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Detectives have charged a 32-year-old Capalaba woman with the murder of a 51-year-old Carina man, whose body was discovered in a drainage ditch at Capalaba about lunchtime on Saturday.

The woman will appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday morning charged with the man’s murder.

Detectives are satisfied no third person was involved in the murder, a police spokesman confirmed on Sunday afternoon.

Police have declined to release the man’s name until the court hearing on Monday.

The man’s identity allowed detectives to begin following “certain lines” of investigation, a police media spokesman said earlier on Sunday.

Detectives were investigating how and when the man’s body was dumped in a drainage ditch on Degen Road at Capalaba.

Two Capalaba residents found the body dumped in a drainage ditch in Degen Road just before 1pm on Saturday as they left their property.

Detective Inspector Owen Elloy told reporters the man had met a “horrible, violent death” but declined to release much information about the crime.

Police Forensic examiners spent the afternoon at the scene, examining the man’s body and looking for weapons and any identification.

The body – with extensive injuries – was found in a roadside drain in Degen Road in a rural acreage section of Capalaba.

While there are homes in the rural acreage area, they are on large blocks of land and back from the street front.

The couple who found the body are still helping Capalaba police with the investigation.

Inspector Elloy said police had set up a command centre at Capalaba Police Station to investigate the man’s death.

Police on Saturday afternoon asked residents if they had heard anything on Friday evening or early Saturday morning.

“They have door-knocked the area, but still not come up with anything to identify him,” a police spokesman said on Saturday afternoon.

Police would not reveal if the man had any identifying information on him when he was found by the two Capalaba residents.

Inspector Elloy gave few details of the likely cause of death, or the extent and location of injuries on the body, referring to the death several times as as “violent”.

He said police would like to talk to anyone who may have seen or heard anything suspicious near Degen Road at Capalaba.

The area backs onto to bush land and an area of wetlands.

Anyone who can help can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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San Bernardino shooting called ‘terrorism’ but Americans urged not to fear

FBI Director James Comey called on calling on people to speak to authorities if they see something that “doesn’t make sense”. Photo: AP/File A bizarre spectacle played out on a suburban street in San Bernardino on Friday morning when reporters were allowed into the flat of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Baby food was among the everyday items on show. Photo: Nick O’Malley
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US Muslims feel backlash after Paris and California attacksMayhem at suspected shooters’ apartmentMotive a mysteryTashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook leave baby behind

San Bernardino: The FBI director James Comey has confirmed the agency is now treating Wednesday’s San Bernardino mass shooting as an act of terrorism, but added there was no evidence yet the two suspects were part of a terrorist cell.

“This is now a federal terrorism investigation led by the FBI and the reason for that is that the investigation so far has developed indications of radicalisation by the killers and of a potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organisations,” he said on Friday.

Mr Comey’s comments came after the assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, David Bowdich​, confirmed one of the two suspected killers, Tashfeen Malik, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group in a Facebook post before the attack.

A Facebook executive told the Associated Press Malik posted the material under an alias at 11am on Wednesday. That was about the time the first 911 calls were received and when the couple was believed to have stormed into the social service centre and opened fire during a workplace Christmas party in San Bernardino, California.

She and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook were killed in a gunfight with police after the attack that left 14 of Farook’s work colleagues dead and 21 wounded.

“There’s a number of pieces of evidence that essentially pushed us off the cliff to say we’re investigating this as a terrorist event,” he said.

Mr Bowdich said investigators were seeking to extract data from two mobile phones the couple had apparently sought to destroy in order to obscure their digital tracks. He said the phones could prove to be a “golden nugget” in the investigation.

“Digital media should lead us to motivation, which should lead us … to human intelligence,” he said.

Earlier he suggested it was possible the couple – who assembled a stockpile of ammunition, guns and homemade explosives – had been preparing for an attack on another location before deciding to assault the party.

Mr Comey also suggested that not all the information gathered far so fitted the normal profile of a terrorist attack.

“There’s a lot of evidence in this case that doesn’t quite make sense and so we’re trying to be very thoughtful to understand it and to make sense of it, so we understand the full extent of what we have here,” he said.

Mr Comey called on Americans not to give in to fear.

“What we hope you will do is not let fear become disabling but to instead try to channel it into an awareness of your surroundings” he said, calling on people to speak to authorities if they see something that “doesn’t make sense”.

“We investigate in secret so that we don’t smear innocent people,” he said.

“We don’t run over and bang on your neighbour’s door. If you say something, we investigate. If there was nothing there, no harm done.”

The attacks have prompted further debate in America, with many calling for increased gun control and others demanding greater immigration restrictions and even freer access to weapons.

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Car totally destroyed by fire:Singleton

Local Firefighters were called to the carpark atthe entrance oftheAustralian Christian College, near the intersection of Kelso Street and New England Highway,on Saturday afternoon to extinguish a car fire.
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At around 3.50pm they arrived at the scene to find a silver Holden Astra well alight after the driver pulled off the New England Highway after hearing a loud bang.

It took them 40 minutes to fully extinguish the blaze and the vehicle was totally destroyed by the fire.

The driver sayshe pulled into the car park heexited the car to find it was already on fire.

The man says he immediately called emergency services, and the vehiclewas towed from the scene.

Car totally destroyed by fire: Singleton Firefighters at the scene.

Firefighters at the scene.

Firefighters at the scene.

Firefighters at the scene.

Firefighters at the scene.

Firefighters at the scene.

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