Until Asleigh Barty won the French Open last year, Sam Stosur was Australia’s most recent winner of a singles title at the majors. In 2011 at the US Open she demolished Serena Williams in the final, winning the title with a huge forehand winner on her third match point. It was the greatest moment of her life.
Not any more; the US Open trophy maybe the greatest moment of her professional life but the biggest and most important moment of her life, period, happened just days ago.
Sam Stosur became a mother for the first time. She and her partner Liz Astling are parents to a daughter named Genevieve (Evie) and those of us who know Sam have not seen her look so happy before. The Queenslander has always been an easy going, down to earth person with a ready smile and laugh, but now there is something extra in her soul that every new parent can relate to.
In an interview with Todd Woodbridge for Tennis Australia, Sam said there is plenty she has learned the last few months and weeks and now that Evie is in her arms, she has absorbed so much more. Professional tennis players need to soak up so much going in to a match but it does not compare with a baby around; one has to expect the unexpected with the latter and be able to adapt in an instant. It is no longer about yourself.
“She is just adorable,” Sam said. “Just very, very happy and excited and proud to have little Evie here and it’s still seems a little bit weird to say she’s my daughter but I’ll get used to that. It’s absolutely amazing.
“I could not have imagined it would be this incredible. Very, very lucky we have got little Evie. She is an absolute gem and even the tougher times don’t seem that bad. You look at her little face and you just want to cuddle her and hold her all day long, so yeah it’s absolutely incredible.”
Sam said it has been such a quick learning curve. There is no instruction manual. It is not as if she has notes as she would going into a big match. People can provide advice but it is not the same until you have experienced it yourself. Smiling, she said she had no idea babies lose weight after they are born and it would be such a struggle to make sure they would put it back on, and then there is the aspect of sleep … or lack there of. It’s just the start.
In a strange way the COVID-19 situation has worked in her favour. It allowed her to be home the whole time with Liz through the pregnancy doing shopping, doing birthing classes in person rather than on the phone from overseas, etc.
“There have been bonuses to being at home but also some tricky times like obviously not living the way that we would like to at the moment, we can’t see anyone, we’re in Mebourne, we’re in lockdown, so it has certainy presented it’s challenges along the way,” she said.
“But, the fact that I haven’t missed playing any events and all of that to do with my career and to be able to be here and enjoy every single aspect of it without that worry and stress with my tennis, has been absolutely incredible. It’s been an enjoyable time, even though it’s had a few times where it hasn’t been the way you wanted it.”
Definitely having a newborn will have its challenges especially as she is going to continue playing, but her attitude is that the positives of having Liz and Evie around will greatly outweigh any potential challenges. Sam made it clear that she will not be playing the US Open and is also taking the rest of the year off. It will be just the second time she has missed the US Open since her debut in 2004. She missed it in 2017 due to injury.
“I will stay here and enjoy my family and go through the little milestones Evie will have in the next six months,” Sam said. “Weighing up the pros and cons of me going and travelling and what it’s going to take – I decided I didn’t want to do that. Now you have to think about your family not just yourself with these decisions.”
The Australian has always been a very private person. While some players are fine with people knowing everything thing about them, via social media or whatever, the 36-year-old felt her life off the tennis courts was her private domain. She explained “the world only knows me as a tennis player” and she was not ready to open herself to the public at large. Her mindset changed when she won the Newcombe Medal, the highest honour in Australian tennis.
She was on stage thanking everyone around her but when she got off stage she felt something was not quite right. She had made no mention of her partner who was and is a big part of her life, professional and personal. In true Aussie form she thought “bugger this” and “this is who I am” and she put it out on Instagram.
Sam Stosur now has the opportunity to reflect on a lot of things – an amazing career, a lovely new family and what is ahead as she continues to work on her game heading into 2021. But when she is back competing and whether she wins or loses, it will certainly not be the most important aspect of any particular day. Instead the most important aspect will be Liz and Evie’s little face.