Stosur changes tack for next season
By Courtney Walsh
October 31, 2008
A RANKINGS drop to the edge of the world's top 50 players seems little cause for celebration yet that is Samantha Stosur's sole intention over the next fortnight.
The first item on the agenda for Stosur, who called season's end after an early exit from a tournament in Austria last week, was to find a mountain bike suitable for the Gold Coast's hinterland.
"I'm going to get into a bit of mountain biking maybe, try to find a bike," Stosur said.
"I'll do some different things, go to the beach, just enjoy it. There's no set plans, take every day and enjoy the break."
It is hardly the behaviour of a player concerned about a drop to world No.49 in the rankings, particularly one entering "middle age" on the tennis circuit, but Stosur does have good cause to relax.
It is just over 12 months ago since a tick bite had a dramatic impact on the 24-year-old's career. Stosur, renowned as one of the fittest players on the women's tour, was hospitalised in Tampa with a viral infection later identified as Lyme disease.
"The whole time I tried to stay pretty positive with what was going on," she said.
"Certainly sometimes it was very hard to do and it certainly wasn't fun being on antibiotics for eight weeks and being on IVs and going to hospitals. It certainly wasn't enjoyable."
Stosur, who lost her world No.1 doubles ranking during a seven-month stint on the sidelines, did consider a comeback during the local summer but was forced to concede, breaking a run of 16 consecutive Grand Slam appearances when she missed her first Australian Open since 2001.
But unlike compatriot Alicia Molik, who announced her retirement last month after her once-bright career stalled on her return from a debilitating inner-ear infection, Stosur was always confident there would be no long-term complications.
"Pretty much all I did was follow what the specialists said and nobody ever once told me I wouldn't be able to play again or never be healthy again, it was just a matter of when that time would be," she said.
In the seven months off the circuit, Stosur's ranking slide significantly to world No.162 - her lowest since 2003 - and forced her to return via challenger events, a second-tier level of limited prizemoney and ranking points.
Stosur showed form but posted surprise losses to players she would normally sweep aside in events in Charlottesville and Dothan in the US. The fitness had returned but the concentration was erratic.
But Stosur, one of few women capable of serve-volleying successfully, hit form when the tour reached the UK, reaching the semi-finals of a major Wimbledon lead-in tournament at Eastborne before falling in the second round of the main event after leading 18th-seed Nicole Vaidisova 3-0 in the third set.
The UK rankings gains ensured a return to the main circuit and Stosur has quickly made up ground, most recently reaching the final of an event in Seoul.
With no points to defend over the Australian summer, Stosur has every reason to believe she can close on the top 20 on her return to the circuit in Brisbane in January.
"My goal when I started playing again, back in April, was to try and get into the top 50 and I managed to do that, just," she said.