Stosur sought by home, country
By LINDA PEARCE
October 26, 2005
DESPITE a season that started so brightly, yet ultimately failed to ignite, Samantha Stosur is finding herself in sudden demand. Alicia Molik's illness has left Australia without a Hopman Cup anchor and, consequently, Stosur is being courted in two states.
The Australian No. 2 has been invited to partner Wayne Arthurs at the teams event in Perth in the first week of January. But the Hopman Cup clashes with Stosur's home-town tournament on the Gold Coast, where she has competed for the past four years and has valuable rankings points to defend from her run to the 2005 final.
Hopman Cup tournament director Paul McNamee confirmed yesterday that Stosur was his priority as Molik's replacement and she is expected to lean to the Perth tournament.
But Gold Coast tournament director Liz Smylie also wants Stosur in her field, as an important local drawcard to complement headline international act Maria Sharapova.
"Obviously, I'd love to have Sam come and play the Mondial Australian women's hardcourts," Smylie said yesterday. "It's her home event, and she's done very well here in the past; she's beaten a lot of good players."
"Obviously, we're inviting Sam as next in line, so I've made initial contact but I haven't got any news at all," McNamee said. "Sam's the standout second option, and she clearly fulfils all the criteria, being quite young and doing really well and also being very good in doubles, where she won the US Open and is up to No. 4 now."
Asked whether he expected a tug of war to develop with the Gold Coast tournament, McNamee said: "I don't think it will because I think that's a decision she's (Stosur's) got to make. I understand that delicacy, but I'm sure she'd love to play the Gold Coast and love to play the Hopman Cup as well, so it's a matter for her how she handles that."
Stosur made her senior WTA Tour debut on the Gold Coast in 2002, reached her first career semi-final there two years later and last January defeated three of the top-eight seeds to reach a final she lost to Swiss Patty Schnyder.
Sosur backed up with a Sydney finals appearance the next week, her Australian form the standout in an otherwise disappointing singles year. Now being coached by former doubles star Gigi Fernandez, Stosur is eight places below her career peak of 44th despite having aimed for a top-30 position by season's end.
And yet the 21-year-old is suddenly much sought-after, with Australia's depth crisis exaggerated by Molik's decision to take an extended sabbatical from the game to cure the inner-ear virus vestibular neuronitis.
Next on the rankings sheet is Nicole Pratt (134), with Evie Dominikovic one spot behind.
There already has been one big alteration to the original Hopman Cup field. Sweden, to be represented by former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson and Sofia Arvidsson, has replaced the Belarusian team of Max Mirnyi and Viktoria Azarenka.
At Kooyong, tournament director Colin Stubs is close to confirming in-form Croat Ivan Ljubicic as the seventh player in his eight-man AAMI Classic field. The remaining place is being held for Andre Agassi, from whom a decision is expected by the end of the week.
And Andy Roddick may be planning a controversial addition to his coaching staff, according to reports from the US. The volatile Jim Pierce, now reconciled with his resurgent daughter, Mary, is apparently being considered to supplement Roddick's coach Dean Goldfine, who replaced Brad Gilbert last December.