Samantha Stosur at crossroads, says Tennis Australia chief
TENNIS Australia's head of performance has declared Samantha Stosur at the crossroads of her stellar career.
But Wally Masur also believes the 34-year-old can once again challenge for French Open glory if the cards fall her way.
Australia's only grand slam singles winner in over a decade and a half, Stosur enters the clay-court major starting in Paris on Sunday unseeded for the first time since 2008.
Since then, she made the semi-finals four times - most recently in 2016 when she upset now-world No.1 Simona Halep -- and lost the 2010 title decider to Francesca Schiavone.
Pointing to the late-career renaissance of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Masur said if Stosur is to enjoy her own Indian summer, it will be at Roland Garros.
"This is her time. There's been very rarely a red clay season where she hasn't played well,” he said.
"And I think, without putting too fine a point on it, it's a pretty important time for her.
"She's 60th in the world now, she's got Strasbourg (rankings points) to defend, plus fourth round of the French (last year), so it's kind of game on.
"That puts a little bit of pressure on you going in. But it has, historically, been a great surface for her.”
Despite her unflattering ranking, Stosur habitually excels in Paris, where the courts suit her high-spinning forehand and deadly second-serve kicker - especially on hot and sunny days.
In the absence of grand slam heavyweights Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and other big guns dropping like flies, many were tipping Stosur to reign last year before an untimely stress fracture in her right hand cruelled her chances.
The one-time world No.4 had been leading surprise eventual champion Jelena Ostapenko 4-0 after just 13 minutes in their last-16 clash until disaster struck.
Instead of a thrashing for Ostapenko, the Latvian cashed in on Stosur's misfortune to rewrite tennis history while Australia's former US Open champion wondered what might have been during a near-five-month layoff.
"If she's ever going to win another grand slam, it will be at the French Open,” Masur said.
"And if she doesn't fire, there's going to be question marks over her ranking.
"So these are the things that are always in the back of your mind.
"It's different when you're 22 and you've got it all ahead of you.
"But I know Sam can play well on the clay and Sam, traditionally, has played better outside of Australia.”
Defending her title in Strasbourg, Stosur was scheduled to face fellow Australian Daria Gavrilova in the second round on Wednesday night in a rematch of last year's final.
Meanwhile, Australian No.1 Nick Kyrgios has won a doubles match with American Jack Sock in his first competitive outing in almost six weeks.
Nick Kyrgios's French Open prospects have improved, with the Australian No.1 making a winning return after almost six weeks out with an elbow injury.
Kyrgios teamed with American Jack Sock to record a first-round doubles victory at the ATP clay-court event in Lyon.
The pair's 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 win over Federico Delbonis and Joao Sousa was Kyrgios's first match since losing in the quarter-finals in Houston last month and returning home to Canberra for treatment.
The world No.23 has opted against playing singles this week and appears to be racing the clock to be fully fit for Roland Garros starting on Sunday.
Bernard Tomic, Thanasi Kokkinakis and rising star Akira Santillan will continue their bids to join Kyrgios and fellow Australians John Millman, Matt Ebden, Jordan Thompson, James Duckworth and Alex de Minaur in the men's main draw on Wednesday night.
Tomic, Kokkinakis and Santillan all play their second-round qualifying matches in Paris.
But John-Patrick Smith fell at the first hurdle on Tuesday, going down 6-3 4-6 6-4 to Frenchman Corentin Denolly before rain forced the suspension of the rest of the day's scheduled qualifying matches.
Women's hopeful Olivia Rogowska was locked at one set all against Kathinka Von Deichmann of the Netherland when her first-round battle was halted.
Rogowska will also resume on Wednesday night alongside fellow Australian women Arina Rodionova, Lizette Cabrera and Priscilla Hon.
Ashleigh Barty, Daria Gavrilova and Stosur will play second-round matches in Strasbourg on Wednesday night.
Top-seeded Barty faces Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier, while second-seeded Gavrilova meets defending champion Stosur in a sequel to their all-Australian final last year.