Former world No.4 Sam Stosur and Roland Garros runner-up Sam Stosur is confident Ashleigh Barty will be “well and truly” recovered from her arm injury and fully primed for a charge at a second career major.
World No.1 Barty succumbed to injury in the Italian Open quarter-finals almost a fortnight ago and, after a hectic playing schedule, opted for some recuperation before heading back to Paris for the first time since the heady days of her breakthrough major triumph two years ago.
Ash Barty has been struggling with injury but Sam Stosur is not concerned leading into the French Open.Credit:Getty Images
“I wouldn’t be too concerned about her injury,” said Stosur, a four-time Roland Garros semi-finalist.
“I think that’s something that she struggles with on and off throughout the year, depending on the conditions.
“So I’m sure she’s rested up. She’s had some good days off, some good practice, and I’m sure she’s going to be 100 per cent going into her first match.”
After a hectic schedule in her comeback to the tour in 2021 – featuring WTA titles in Australia, Miami and on clay in Germany – Barty was leading American Coco Gauff in their final-eight clash in Rome before pulling out.
“She [Barty] has played a lot of matches, she’s played many many good matches, tough matches. She’s been tested, she’s got though them,” said Stosur.
“That’s just part and parcel with playing so much – there’s bound to be little niggles. I think it’s a sensible decision to not push too hard in the week or two before Roland Garros.
“I think she’ll be well and truly over that now.”
The last two Parisian women’s champions – Barty and rising star Iga Swiatek – head favouritism but accomplished claycourter Stosur had a word of warning: be prepared for another bolt from the blue.
With Barty absent last year – Roland Garros was held in autumn instead of spring due to the impact of coronavirus – 19-year-old Swiatek stormed through the draw to become the newest women’s star.
Now boasting a career-high top 10 ranking, Poland’s Swiatek and 25-year-old Barty have some of the hottest form on clay.
However, Stosur said the field – without world No.3 Simona Halep but featuring Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka and powerful Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka – could yet provide an upset or two.
“… [Barty and Swiatek] – you’re definitely going to be looking at them. They’ve had good form going into the event,” said Stosur.
“[But] then it’s a slam – so you never know what can happen. There’s always going to be upsets and a dark horse coming through at some stage.
“If it’s anything like last year you’ll see a qualifier make semis.”
Stosur, 37, has herself had an injury niggle – a foot injury she suffered six weeks ago, which stopped her heading overseas and missing the claycourt swing and another appearance at one of her favourite tennis playgrounds in Paris.
The 2011 US Open champion will instead return to the tour for events on grass ahead of Wimbledon, starting in late June.
Stosur admits to apprehension about hitting the road after being sidelined by COVID-19.
“I haven’t experienced this whole bubble life yet, really, so I’m a little bit nervous about it all to be honest,” Stosur said.
“I think there’s a new term – bubble fatigue – coming through where people [players] are itching to get out and not be confined to the hotel and the courts all the time.”
Stosur is acutely aware that if she again chose against travel, retirement loomed. The prospect of a fifth Olympics in Tokyo is also still in the mix.
“I definitely do [still have the motivation]. I wouldn’t be out here training every day if I didn’t, that’s for sure.
“You don’t train just to train. You train to go and play.
“I think I want to go out there and see what I want to do this year. It is very different circumstances, it will be very hard to leave home this time around.
“But I figure if I don’t do it now then I’m pretty much retired. I’ve got to go and keep going and do this year and hopefully next year can be a little bit kinder to everyone.”
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