Sam Stosur fancies her French Open chances
AAP From: AAP March 23, 2010 4:00PM
SAM Stosur believes she has the game to win the French Open.
Stosur today officially became the first Australian woman since Alicia Molik in 2005 to crack the world's top 10 - then promptly declared herself a frontline contender to reign in Paris at the season's next grand slam event in May.
Turning 26 next Tuesday, Stosur surprised many with a breakthrough run to the semi-finals at Roland Garros last year, ultimately falling in three tight sets to eventual champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
While former Australian Davis Cup winner John Alexander once touted Stosur a future Wimbledon champion, the Queenslander believes her high-kicking serve and heavy groundstrokes may be ideally suited to the French now that she's finally adapted to the challenging slow surface.
"Given the lack of experience that I had playing on clay when I was younger and growing up through the juniors and everything, and how long it took me to win a match at Roland Garros, maybe it was a bit of a surprise (last year)," Stosur said.
"But I think that clay actually does suit my game and, over the years the more I've been able to play on it, the more I've adapted and appreciated what I have to do out there and I actually enjoy it more now.
"So I think for sure my serve suits it, my forehand, the way I hit with spin and everything, I should play pretty well on clay, I think.
"So it's just a matter of before the season starts on the clay to get as much practice in as possible." Stosur's more immediate focus - before the clay season begins next month - is this week's prestigious event in Miami, the very place where her form and rankings surge began last year with victories over Dinara Safina and Amelie Mauresmo en route to the quarter-finals.
Her twin successes at the $US4.5 tournament known in tennis circles as "the fifth slam" sparked her watershed season, during which Stosur landed her maiden WTA title in Osaka and was also the only player to topple every one of the year-ending world's top five - including the great Serena Williams.
As ninth seed, Stosur will enjoy a first-round bye in Miami before taking on either Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro or Russian wildcard Anastasia Pivovarova in her opening match.
The Australian is unconcerned about the pressure of having to defend a mass of rankings points to retain her lofty position in the top 10 as the year rolls on.
"I guess this is a good test," Stosur said. "Straight up I make it and straight up I've got a few points to defend.
"But I'm not going to start freaking out about defending points or anything like that. Just each week I'm going to try and do better and better."
Stosur says it's especially satisfying to have overcome career-threatening illness to become only the eighth Australian woman since rankings were established in 1975 to reach the top 10.
The former top-ranked doubles player's latest career milestone comes less than two years after she was forced out of the game for six months with the debilitating Lyme disease, an infection transmitted by the bite of ticks.
"Since I started playing again, I wanted to get there," she said. "You never really know if it's ever really going to happen."