EACH loss on home soil is eating away Samantha Stosur’s confidence towards the point of no return, according to Lleyton Hewitt.
Hewitt, who says he thrives on playing in Australia, believes Stosur is in danger of being consumed by the suffocating pressure of home expectation.
‘‘Sure, you get nervous, but there’s an adrenalin buzz that brings out the best,’’ the former world No.1 said.
‘‘That’s a tough thing for Sam to pass now.
‘‘She’s just digging a hole and it’s harder to get out.’’
The women’s world No.9 has lost her past four matches in Australia dating back to last summer’s frustrating and forgettable run, which ended with her first-round exit at the Australian Open.
An underdone Stosur blamed her disrupted build-up to the 2013 season after ankle surgery, rather than an inability to cope with the pressure, when she fell to Swede Sofia Arvidsson at the Brisbane International on Monday night.
But the 2011 US Open champion admitted she must clear her head of the ‘‘silly thoughts’’ that remained after never making the quarter-finals in 10 Australian Open campaigns.
Stosur’s best results have come in 2006 and 2010 when she made the fourth round at Melbourne Park, where she holds a 14-10 record for a success rate of 58per cent.
‘‘I think it’s a lot within you,’’ Hewitt said of responding to the pressure. ‘‘Bernie Tomic is very similar to me in terms of he laps it up as well.
‘‘I was a 16-year-old having to play a final in Adelaide, my home town, and having to play [Andre] Agassi, who was my idol, and I just loved being out there and doing it.’’
Ironically, despite being one of the sport’s all-time greatest competitors, Hewitt also suffered under the weight of home expectations.
In 16 visits to Melbourne Park, Hewitt progressed beyond the fourth round only once – making the 2005 final – and his record there (30-16) represents his worst strike rate of all four grand slam events.
Stosur’s story is similar to Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo, the former world No.1 who openly admitted to freezing at Roland Garros.
Andy Murray, who lost three consecutive semi-finals in front of British fans at Wimbledon before finally making the final last year, has advised Stosur to live in her own bubble over the next three weeks.
Hewitt is set to meet Murray in the quarter-finals at Brisbane if he can overcome Uzbek world No.44 Denis Istomin at Pat Rafter Arena tomorrow.
He looked sharp in a three-set win over Igor Kunitsyn on Tuesday and has a new lease of life after radical toe surgery.
‘‘I feel happy with my movement and my mind’s free to chase every ball down and not second guess myself on the court,’’ Hewitt said.