Australia's Sam Stosur. Photo: Getty Images
THE surprise to Victoria Azarenka was that Sam Stosur would admit to the third-set choke against Zheng Jie.
''She said that?'' queried Azarenka. Yes, she did. So what does it feel like to know you should be doing something but find you're doing something else? Has there been a pressure situation that Azarenka has experienced that was in any way comparable to what Stosur has gone through here?
''Yeah, for sure,'' said the top seed and defending champion. ''For sure, everybody felt that at some point in their career. Sometimes you think you know exactly what you do, but your body just kind of resembles your actions. You know, sometimes it's just blurry. You don't see anything. I'm sure everybody experienced that. I have in the past. It's just a matter of how you deal with it. You have to find your own way how to kind of get through it. She's been really honest about it. I'm sure it's not easy for her to play here.''
For Minsk-born Azarenka, it is not the location that matters as much as, usually, the circumstances. ''I don't think it's the place; sometimes it's the match; sometimes it's just occasion; sometimes it's just how you feel. It's not really particular to one place. We don't have a grand slam in Belarus, so I'm kind of lucky with that - or not.''
Stosur's coach David Taylor said her latest collapse was ''one of her worst''.
''It was terrible to see,'' he said. ''At 5-2, I put my phone in my pocket so I wouldn't forget it because I knew it was the last game. It is an absolutely devastating loss. It's illogical for a player of that level - but that's what it is. It's not that easy to solve … there's no easy answer.
'There's not one thing or suggestion that I've ever read that she hasn't tried. People make statements as if it's something new. She's tried everything. Sports psychologists, you name it. She's one of the best players in the world so she's got access to a lot of information and these people are making comments like it's new.
''A lot of people who aren't in sport, I don't think they really understand. She's obviously very anxious and it's highlighted under pressure. It happens to people in everyday life. Her anxiety happens in sport.''
Taylor doesn't subscribe to the theory that Stosur is more prone to nerves in Australia. ''The thing that she's proven to everyone and herself is that she rebounds quickly and plays good tennis after disappointing losses.
''I think this is no different. She has had shocking results at Wimbledon every year, played a terrible match at the French Open - it wasn't in Australia. It's just highlighted because she is in Australia.''
Stosur yesterday partnered German Julia Goerges in the women's doubles, and signed up to partner young South Australian Luke Saville in the mixed.
Stosur and Goerges progressed to the second round of the doubles with a 6-3 6-1 clubbing of 16th seeds Daniela Hantuchova and Anabel Medina Garrigues.
As for the Azarenka, the greatest title threat to Serena Williams, she clobbered Eleni Daniilidou 6-1, 6-0. She was curious to see whether the roof would be closed over a sweltering Rod Laver Arena but, when it was not, determined not to hang around.
''That's why I was trying to play fast,'' said Azarenka, who next plays American Jamie Hampton. ''The first match I got a little bit sunburnt. You don't want to make that mistake again. I was prepared for it, you know. I think everybody knew few days before that that it's going to be really hot. Even at 11am, you could really feel it.''
Azarenka needs to reach the Open final to have a chance of retaining her top ranking for a 49th week.