Stosur gets horror Gold Coast draw
January 1, 2005 - 5:14PM
Samantha Stosur's happy new year turned sour when she was dealt a horror draw in the Uncle Toby's Women's Hardcourts on the Gold Coast.
A semi finalist in her home tournament last year, Stosur has drawn world No.18 and fourth seed Karolina Sprem of Croatia in the first round.
It's a tough first-up encounter for 2005 but the 20-year-old has proven in the past she is up for the challenge.
Last year the right-handed Stosur stunned many tournament seeds, including Sprem in the second round, to reach the tournament's semi final in front of a parochial home crowd.
Stosur's superb start to 2004 was the catalyst to her finest year on the WTA where she finally reached the top 100, finishing the year ranked No.65 in the world.
Hopes are high on the Gold Coast that the local girl may prevail in the popular Australian Open warm-up event.
But she meets a refreshed Sprem, who also had a fine 2004.
Although Stosur prevailed in straight sets both times the pair met last year, it was Sprem who really established herself throughout the season.
The 20-year-old rocketed herself into the top 20 for the first time of her career but had her year cut short by a viral infection in November.
Tournament director Liz Smylie believes the Stosur-Sprem match up is clearly the pick of the first round clashes.
"That will be a hell of a match," said Smylie.
"They will both have to play well right from the first serve. There is no easy match for them.
"Sam has come a long way in 2004 and it is dangerous to predict what anyone is going to do in a tournament.
"Everyone has come here fresh so it is a good time of year to be playing well."
Event wildcards Tiffany Welford and Jaslyn Hewitt, sister of men's world No.3 Lleyton, have both drawn tough first round encounters against strong Czech Republic players.
Welford faces world No.36 Iveta Benesova while Hewitt meets No.46 Klara Koukalova.
Smylie believes any victory for the wildcards in this tournament would be sensational for the young girls.
"Welford and Hewitt are pooled next to each other, but any win in this tournament would be a good effort for them," she said.
"They are not necessarily expected to win, so that is why it is so important for these young Aussie girls to get a chance against these top players.
"Sam proved that last year when she got her wildcard and then won through to the semis and her year turned out great.
"That is what this tournament is here for. Hopefully Tiffany and Jaslyn take advantage of that."
Defending champion, world No.17 Ai Sugiyama of Japan, has drawn a tough first-up match against Dinara Safina, the sister of Russian men's ace Marat Safin.
Australian Nicole Pratt has drawn a qualifier in her first round but could face No.2 seed Patty Schnyder in the second round.
Top seed Nadia Petrova of Russia has drawn China's Jie Zheng.
In the doubles, tennis great Martina Navratilova and new partner Nathalie Dechy have drawn young Australian pair Casey Dellacqua and Nicole Sewell.
An all-Australian match is another first round highlight between Samantha Stosur/Bryanne Stewart and Jaslyn Hewitt/Sophie Ferguson.
The qualifier finals will be completed on Sunday with competition starting on Monday.