If any place in the tennis world has good vibes for Samantha Stosur, it has to be Charleston.
The 32-year-old Aussie loves it here, and the stadium court on Daniel Island is the site of one of the most overpowering performances of her career — a 52-minute demolition of Vera Zvonareva in the 2010 finals of this tournament.
“Best match I’ve ever played,” Stosur says with a grin.
Stosur returned to the scene of her prime Tuesday, taking a 6-4, 6-4 win over 23-year-old Aleksandra Krunic in the first round of the Volvo Car Open. Ranked No. 26 and seeded 10th here, the 2011 U.S. Open champion now has a singles record of 14-8 in Charleston, including a trip to the semifinals in 2012.
Add in a gourmet’s appreciation for Lowcountry food and a loud contingent of Aussie tennis fans, and it’s no wonder that Stosur considers the South Carolina coast a home away from the Gold Coast of Australia.
“I love coming back here, I say it every single year,” said Stosur, making her 10th appearance in Charleston. “And yeah, it’s nice to play on this court. It’s great to have the fans supporting you, and I do feel like I’ve got lots of support when I play here. And I’ve played some of my best tennis here ... I certainly feel comfortable being in this city.”
Against Krunic, a Serb ranked No. 124, Stosur had to overcome breezy conditions and 11 double faults in a match that lasted one hour and 39 minutes. Stosur faced 20 break points, but saved all but four of them, and cashed in on the big points — she won six of her 11 break points.
“It’s always good to get through any match,” Stosur said. “I guess overall, yeah, my tennis could have been a little bit better, and my serve especially. Whether it was the conditions, a bit of lack of focus at times, whatever the case, it’s certainly something that I need to rectify for the next round.
“But it was tricky conditions out there. It was pretty windy and a bit swirly at times, and then with the wind, it was a bit tricky as well, so matches like that they’re not easy. But to get through it in the end in straight sets, I’m happy with that.”
On the tail end of a career that’s seen her win more than $15 million and climb as high as No. 4 in world rankings, Stosur still looks as fit as ever. Type in her name on Google, and the search engine answers with “arms” and “abs” and “workout”.
“I guess I’m definitely on the end of my career,” she said. “However long that is, I don’t know yet. But look, I’m feeling fit and healthy and feel like I can still improve my tennis and hopefully get higher in the rankings than what I’ve been the last couple of years.
“But I really want to try and make the most of each event that I’m able to play, and I want to do well in the bigger tournaments of course. I really just start to enjoy my tennis. I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to achieve in my career so far. So kind of anything from this point on is — not a bonus, because you work hard for it — but I don’t feel like I need to prove anything.”
Krunic, on the other hand, was making her first appearance in Charleston. She made a name for herself at the 2014 U.S. Open, defeating Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova on the way to the round of 16.
“Look, for someone who’s quite, I guess, slight in a lot of ways — she’s not a very big girl — she moves very well,” Stosur said. “She’s very fast. There was a couple of times I hit a short ball or a drop shot and I didn’t think she was going to get to it, and she did.
“She does that stuff very well. She moves the ball around the court well. She’s not too, I guess, patterned. She doesn’t go cross court every single time off any shot. You gotta be smart when you play her not to give her the things that she likes.”
Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard won her opener Tuesday, taking a 6-3, 6-4 win over Alexandra Dulgheru.
Also Tuesday, American wild-card entrant Louisa Chirico, just 19 years old, scored a 3-6,l 6-1, 6-1 victory over qualifer Naomi Osaka of Japan. It was the first match win on the WTA Tour this year for Chirico, who is ranked No. 126 and is from Westchester, N.Y.
Fellow American Madison Brengle was not as fortunate, losing 7-5, 6-2 to qualifer Kristina Kucova.
No. 14 Daria Kasatkina d. Saisai Zheng, 6-2, 6-1
No. 10 Samantha Stosur d. Aleksandra Krunic, 6-4, 6-4
Louisa Chirico d. Naomi Osaka, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1
Kristina Kucova d. Madison Brengle, 7-5, 6-2
Shuai Zhang d. Lesley Kerkhove, 6-1, 6-2
Yaroslava Shevdova d. Evgeniya Rodina, 6-1, 6-1
Yulia Putintseva d. Kurumi Nara, 7-6, 6-0
Eugenie Bouchard d. Alexandra Dulgheru, 6-3, 6-4
Monica Puig d. Lucie Hradecka, 6-3, 6-2