IN 1996, Rockhampton's Robert Beak stepped on to a tennis court in Brisbane for his final examination to become a professional tennis coach.
On the other side of the net was a 12-year-old tennis prodigy from the Gold Coast named Samantha Stosur.
Beak's task was to hit a few rallies with the talented right-hander, analyse her game and submit a report on her strengths and weaknesses.
"I remember coming off the court and thinking to myself 'who is this bird' ... and it was Sam Stosur," Beak recalled yesterday after watching 'Slammin' Sam' pull off a stunning upset win over American Serena Williams in the US Open final.
Beak, who now runs Beak's Tennis in Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast, can still remember that practice session with Stosur 15 years ago like it was yesterday.
"There wasn't too much I could analyse, she had it all," he laughed.
"I've always had a soft spot for Sam and I'm really glad (she won)."
Stosur produced the match of her life yesterday against 13-time grand slam champion Williams, winning in straight sets 6-2 6-3 after taking the match on her third championship point by ripping a forehand winner.
Her victory made her Australia's first female grand slam singles champion in 31 years following Evonne Goolagong Cawley's second Wimbledon title in 1980.
Beak said Stosur's tough journey through to yesterday's final, which included marathon three-set wins over Russians Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko in the third and fourth rounds respectively, had her primed to lift her first grand slam trophy.
"Those longer matches really got her mentally tough and she got a lot of self-belief," he said.
Beak hopes Stosur's success will inspire junior tennis players in CQ to one day follow in her footsteps.
"She's from Queensland and originates from the Gold Coast and went through all the tournaments a lot of our junior players do," he said.
"Hopefully her win does generate a bit more interest in tennis and say to the young kids out there 'let's get into it and have a go like Sam'."
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