She hasn’t won a singles match since February and has plummeted to No.381 in the world, but inviting Sam Stosur to contest a record-equalling 20th consecutive Australian Open was a “no brainer”.
So says Open chief Craig Tiley after Stosur was handed a wildcard into the Melbourne Park major on Wednesday.
“She’s just outside the rankings to get in directly (to qualifying) and I’ve been on the journey with Sam for a long time – since 2006 – and she deserves it,” Tiley said.
Despite losing her past nine singles matches since beating fellow Australian Destinee Aiava in the first round of this year’s Open, Stosur bagged her sixth doubles major in New York in September.
And despite her flagging ranking due to the losing streak, the 37-year-old remains a revered figure in Australian tennis.
— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) December 22, 2021
Stosur reigned as the country’s top-ranked singles player – male or female – for a world-record 441 straight weeks between 2008 and 2017.
“It was a no-brainer, put it that way,” Tiley said.
“She’s a grand slam champion, she’s a legend of Australian tennis and we’d love her to advance and finish (her career) on a strong note.
“But Sam loves playing the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if she keeps playing, but she’s said this is probably going to be the end.
“So we’ll see. We’re very proud of the fact that she has this opportunity.”
Stosur’s 20 Australian Open appearances matches Lleyton Hewitt’s effort from 1997 as a teenage qualifier to his 2016 swan song.
Fellow Australians Maddison Inglis and Stosur’s Billie Jean King Cup teammates Storm Sanders and the recently married Daria Saville (nee Gavrilova) have also received wildcards.
— The First Serve (@TheFirstServeAU) December 21, 2021
“Sam was definitely my idol growing up,” Inglis said.
“I absolutely loved watching her and I was lucky enough to play and train with her for some of this year, which has been awesome.
“She’s had an amazing career, she’s won a slam and still doing incredible things so I think this is awesome for her and she deserves it.”
Saville, who broke Stosur’s long reign as Aussie No.1 in May 2017, lauded the 2011 US Open champion and one-time world No.4 as “kind of my mentor”.
“Whenever I have a few doubts, I feel like I can always have a conversation with Sam,” Saville said.
“I’ve always loved being on tour with Sam and since coming to Australia, seeing her working out at the tennis centre always amazed me with how hard she works.
“I’m really excited to watch her play.”
American Robin Anderson and Frenchwoman Diane Parry received reciprocal wildcards from the US and French federations.