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Beaten Stosur feeling the strain of Australia's high hopes

January 9, 2012 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
Australian tennis star Samantha Stosur has been eliminated in the early stages of her first two tournaments in 2012.
Australian tennis star Samantha Stosur has been eliminated in the early stages of her first two tournaments in 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Home favorite Samantha Stosur beaten by Francesca Schiavone at the Sydney International
  • The 2011 U.S. Open champion said expectations on her are like "a bombshell"
  • Wildcard Matthew Ebden earns a shock win over Marcel Granollers in the men's draw
  • Australian Jarmila Gajdosova into the second round of the Hobart International

(CNN) -- Home favorite Samantha Stosur admitted that the expectation on her shoulders ahead of the Australian Open feels "like a bombshell" following Monday's first-round defeat at the Sydney International.

Fifth seed Stosur lost 6-2 6-4 to Italy's Francesca Schiavone, her second early exit in the past week after going out in the second round of the WTA Tour event in her home city of Brisbane.

The 27-year-old has risen to sixth in the world rankings after capturing her first major title at the U.S. Open in September, and hopes are high that Stosur could become the first Australian woman to win the tennis season's opening grand slam since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

But her latest defeat means she will enter the Melbourne event next week having played just three competitive matches since January 1.

"I think the whole emotional side of things really took over today," Stosur told reporters. "I never felt like I was able to be loose and free with the way I wanted to play. I certainly didn't handle the crowd and expectation side of things at all well.

"I think it's the whole expectation I put on myself, too. You do all the work leading up and feel okay and then today all of a sudden it's just like a bombshell hits you. That makes it harder to handle."

I think the whole emotional side of things really took over today
Samantha Stosur

Stosur will now concentrate on making sure she is prepared for a tournament where she has never got past the fourth round.

"Something my coach just tried to drum into my head is that I've had two pretty disappointing tournaments, but I've also had that in previous years and then got to Melbourne and played better and handled it better," she said.

"I have a week to go, and hopefully that's going to be the same this year."

Monday's match was a repeat of the 2010 French Open final, which Stosur also lost, and world No. 11 Schiavone was pleased to go through to a second-round meeting with Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova -- who beat her compatriot Roberta Vinci.

"You're never in control with Sam," the 31-year-old told the WTA's website. "You never know what she can do. She's strong and fast and puts a lot of pressure on you.

"When she comes inside the court there's no way to defend -- live or die. But I played aggressively and she couldn't play her best. It was closer than the score shows, though."

Sixth seed Vera Zvonareva also crashed out early, losing 6-1 6-2 to fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Today all of a sudden it's just like a bombshell hits you, that makes it harder to handle
Samantha Stosur

The five other top-10 players in action avoided defeat, with third seed Victoria Azarenka recording a 6-2 6-1 win over Switzerland's Stefanie Vogele.

The 2011 French Open champion Li Na beat Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 6-0 6-3, while seventh seed Agnieszka Radwanska won 6-1 6-1 against her sister Urszula Radwanska.

French eighth seed Marion Bartoli and Germany's Andrea Petkovic also won in straight sets, beating Slovenia's Polona Hercog and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia respectively.

In the men's draw, Australian wildcard Matthew Ebden caused a shock by battling to a 6-1 3-6 6-3 triumph against Spanish seventh seed Marcel Granollers.

Another unexpected victor was American Ryan Sweeting, who was only present in the draw due to sixth seed Florian Meyer's withdrawal with a hip injury.

Sweeting capitalized on his last-minute opportunity by coming from behind to earn a 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 win against Luxembourg's Gilles Muller.

In Tasmania, Australia's fifth-seeded defending champion Jarmila Gajdosova kept her focus to triumph 6-3 6-4 over Japan's Ayumi Morita in a rain-delayed contest at the Hobart International.

The weather halted play before the all-Spanish clash between second seed Anabel Medina Garrigues and Carla Suarez Navarro could take place.

Earlier, Belgian top seed Yanina Wickmayer beat New Zealand's Marina Erakovic, while German No. 4 Angelique Kerber defeated Russian Elena Vesnina.

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