Stosur positive as Aussie French Open stocks nosedive

·3-min read
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Former finalist Samantha Stosur is urging tennis fans not to fret as Australia faces the prospect of having its leanest representation in the French Open women's singles in the 55-year open era.

Tennis Australia is clinging to the hope that three-time grand slam quarter-finalist Ajla Tomljanovic will make a surprise comeback after five months out with a knee injury.

If not, wildcard Kimberley Birrell is the only Australian assured of featuring in the women's main draw in Paris from next Monday.

Olivia Gadecki, Priscilla Hon, Storm Hunter, Jaimee Fourlis and Arina Rodionova are all trying to qualify.

But with former top-20 star Daria Saville also recovering from a serious knee injury, Australia could be without a female direct entrant at Roland Garros for the first time since tennis turned professional in 1968.

"Obviously not ideal," Stosur said on Tuesday.

"Obviously you want more players in the draw. That goes without saying, and hopefully Ajla can make her comeback this week.

"If not, then hopefully it'll be very soon. She's obviously had a fantastic year last year and now to miss all the year so far is really devastating for her.

"But I know she's going to be working as hard as she can to get back out there."

Birrell, ranked No.111 in the world, received Tennis Australia's reciprocal wildcard under an arrangement with the French federation.

"Kimbo's actually had a really good year leading in," Stosur said.

"She's won tons of matches this year and also had her own injury struggles over the last few years.

"So to now see her really on the brink of breaking (into the) top 100 and getting into these grand slams on her own merit is fantastic."

Runner-up in 2010 and a semi-finalist three other times, the retired Stosur is optimistic about Australia having a larger representation in Paris in coming years.

"It's all cyclical. It goes around in cycles," she said.

"Next year we could have 10, and then this whole year will be all forgotten about. It comes and goes, it really does."

Stosur is hoping Australia's fringe female players can draw inspiration from Max Purcell and Aleksandar Vukic, who have cracked the men's top 100 the hard way.

Purcell, the reigning Wimbledon doubles champion, is up to 67th in the world and the new Australian No.3 behind Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios.

"If anything, Max Purcell has shown that you can absolutely grind it out on the challenger circuit," Stosur said.

"Dominate that, get yourself in there, grow in confidence and then when you hit the bigger courts, the bigger stage on the ATP or WTA you've got that confidence behind you.

"So I'm sure all the players are looking to what Max has done and Alex Vukic and trying to get in there with them."

Rodionova enjoyed a first-round qualifying win on Monday night and next faces Elizabeth Mandlik, the daughter of Czech-born great Hana Mandlikova, who briefly represented Australia.

Gadecki, Hon, Hunter and Fourlis all play their opening qualifying matches on Tuesday.

With 2022 Wimbledon finalist Kyrgios again sitting out the clay-court major, world No.19 de Minaur is spearheading a much healthier Australian men's assault in Paris.

Purcell, Jason Kubler, Jordan Thompson, Alexei Popyrin, Chris O'Connell and wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis are also in the main draw, while Vukic, James Duckworth, Rinky Hijikata, Marc Polmans and Alex Bolt remain in qualifying.