Quick, name three women you think can win the U.S. Open.
Serena Williams? Maria Sharapova? Kim Clijsters?
All good, and safe, bets. But what about Samantha Stosur?
The 28-year-old Australian is the defending champion and yet hardly anyone is talking about her among the favorites to win.
“It’s a new year, a new tournament,” Stosur, who beat Williams in last year’s final, said after routing Petra Martic of Croatia, 6-1, 6-1 in the first match Monday in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“Of course, you want to [repeat] but at the end of the day you can’t think that. You know, that’s the goal.”
Stosur, the No. 7 seed, hardly broke a sweat in taking the first 19 points of the match against Martic, a 23-year-old ranked No. 64.
With Stosur up 4-0, 40-0 in the first set, it appeared possible she might pull off just the third golden set — where the opponent doesn’t win a single point — in the history of the Open Era.
“It did pop into my head for a split second,” Stosur said. “Then I hit a double fault and it was erased and I was quickly on with the next point.”
With her ability to kick her serve and generate spin off her forehand, Stosur’s game is suited to the fast courts at the Open.
And she seems to thrive off the energy of the city, even if Ashe Stadium was not nearly full to capacity for her early match.
“As you are landing into JFK, I was like, it’s good to be back,” she said. “Now it kind of feels exciting. You’ve got that bit of a buildup, and then as soon as I got here, it was just a good feeling and excitement to be back to a city that obviously brought me so much last year.”
All has not been rosy for Stosur since winning here a year ago.
She fell in the first round of her home Slam, the Australian Open, in part because of the pressure she felt as the reigning U.S. Open champ.
“For sure, you know, the Aussie Open I did freeze and it did kind of handcuff me,” she said. “Since then I haven’t fallen into that trap again, so that’s a positive sign.”
It probably helps Stosur that she is flying under the radar here again this year. She could face three-time Open champ Clijsters in the fourth round and, if she were to survive that, top-seed Victoria Azarenka could await in the quarterfinals.
Until then, Williams, Sharapova and Clijsters will grab most of the headlines on the women’s side. And that’s just fine with Stosur.
“It’s a pretty hectic place sometimes so when you find that down time it’s good to take it,” Stosur said.
“You’re in New York, so you have to enjoy where you are.”
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter @AdamZagoria as he covers the U.S. Open all tournament long.