Alicia Molik launched an impassioned defence of Samantha Stosur after her defeat to American substitute Coco Vandeweghe capped off a horrendous Fed Cup tie for Australia.
Vandeweghe’s 2-6 7-5 6-4 victory over Stosur in Sunday’s opening reverse singles match ensured the United States will return to the eight-nation World Group next year.
It also continued Stosur’s history of capitulations on home soil – and particularly at her home state venue, Brisbane’s Pat Rafter Arena, where a $100,000 Italian clay court was installed by Tennis Australia to allow the country’s top-ranked singles player the luxury of competing on her preferred surface.
That investment provided Stosur and the Australian team with little actual advantage, with the Americans clearly better in the key moments – even without their top three ranked players, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens, who all failed to commit to the tie.
The pressure was all on the 2011 US Open champion, who needed to beat world No.36 Vandeweghe to keep Australia’s faint Fed Cup hopes alive, but team captain Molik moved to reassure a tearful Stosur after the loss.
“I’d be lying if I said there’s not a lot riding on Sam’s shoulders all the time,” Molik said.
“But the way she handles it every single time she plays for her country is something to be admired.”
Australia has not won the Fed Cup since 1974 and, after losing this tie, cannot hope to do so until 2018 at the earliest.
Stosur had been scheduled to take on American No.1 Madison Keys, who easily swept aside Daria Gavrilova on day one, but a wrist complaint saw Keys withdrawn for Vandeweghe.
Like she did against Christina McHale on Saturday, Stosur started strongly but as soon as victory started beckoning, her nerves appeared to creep in and she began to disintegrate.
She had all the momentum at 5-4 up in the second set – but a couple of ragged games handed the powerful Vandeweghe the chance to serve for the set, and she duly obliged.
World No. 26 Stosur was then unable to find the crucial break she needed in the third set, twice failing to convert break points at 5-4 down – including one woeful overhand shot that boomed well past the baseline.
“It’s pretty obvious my record here’s not that great. What can you do?” Stosur said.
“Even though you’re at your home stadium and everything else, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win.
“You’ve still got to bring it and we tried our best here this week, and played some pretty good tennis, but unfortunately came up short.”
Stosur denied suggestions the crunch nature of the match might have played on her mind.
“I knew that today was do-or-die, but kind of every match on tour’s like that as well – if you don’t win, you’re out,” she said.
“It’s just probably that little bit different because you are playing for your country rather than yourself.”