To be honest, I think yesterday was the most recent edition of a pretty long running match structure for Sam. Start out badly, play better in the second set, get an early lead in the third, then tighten up and lose. In fact, it probably wasn't too far away from being a direct replica of her Moscow match against Caro.
Not to say that homeground tightness wasn't a factor, but it felt as much of a "Sam-in-general" issue as a "Sam-in-Australia issue". I wouldn't say the same thing about her loss against Arvidsson though.
This comment got me thinking (thinking always takes a while in my case, which is why I try to avoid it whenever possible
It's true that this is a pretty long-running pattern for Sam, but there are some subtle variations on it that might be meaningful I think (sorry Sinclair, life without speculation is no life for me
). There have been some matches, like the RG SF against Errani and even more so the Wimbledon R2 against Rus, where Sam has inexplicably lost the plot after being completely in control of the match. Although I didn't see the match, I think the Errani match in Istanbul might fall into the same category. In my book these are the really bad losses for Sam, there just seems to be no rational reason for them at all.
I wouldn't put yesterday's loss into the same category. Sam was never completely in control, and Jie always looked dangerous. To be sure, at the start of the third set Sam looked the stronger player, but at no point did she have Jie on the ropes like she did Errani and Rus. And in contrast to those two matches, this time it was Jie who raised her game and came back at Sam rather than Sam handing the initiative to her on a plate. To be sure, it's a bit disappointing that Sam was not able to find an extra gear to counter that, but for me it was a much less painful and forgivable loss than those other ones.
The Caro match in Istanbul was similar to that I thought. It was a bit of a struggle for Sam throughout the match, and Caro played one of the best matches I've ever seen from her. At no point was Sam really in control, but equally, there was no point where she was completely out of contention either.
Then there was the classic USO QF against Vika. IMO Sam has rarely played better than she did in the second and third sets of that match, and she fought like a warrior right up till the end.
I think that Sam deals better with a constant level of pressure than she does with fluctuating pressure, because pressure stops her from thinking too much.