Sam Stosur passed a searching Australian Open fitness test with a spirited three-set win over US Open finalist Roberta Vinci at the Apia International Sydney on Monday.
In a huge confidence booster, Stosur rallied from a set and a service break down to defeat her higher-ranked foe 4-6 7-5 7-5 in a two-hour, 32-minute rollercoaster ride on Monday.
Australia’s one-time US Open champion took to Ken Rosewall Arena with heavy strapping on her right wrist, but blasted 48 clean winners past the world No.15 to set up a second-round shot at Daniela Hantuchova.
Despite packing her forearm – which required scans following her second-round loss last week in Brisbane – with ice and heavy-duty bandages immediately after the match, Stosur said “it felt good”.
“I just want to be really smart and conscientious and do everything I can to make sure it keeps improving,” Stosur told AAP.
“But out there it felt fine. I didn’t think about it, so hopefully it will keep going like that.”
Stosur had won only three matches in Sydney since losing the 2005 final to Alicia Molik, but now has a big opportunity to make another deep run following a string of big-name withdrawals and early exits.
The local hope is the best-credentialled player in a bottom half of the draw, which has been blown open by the departures of Radwanska, sixth seed Timea Bacsinszky and Hopman Cup winner Daria Gavrilova.
“There is always opportunity,” Stosur said.
“Even when they’re in the draw, you like to think you’ve got a shot against them anyway.
“If they’re not in, somebody else is in their spot instead. Everyone is eager. Whoever is in the draw is eager to play and wants to do as best they can going into a Grand Slam.”
In-form German Angelique Kerber and young Swiss star Belinda Bencic also escaped the carnage, but Spanish seventh seed Carla Suarez Navarro joined the seeded casualty list with a 6-3 6-3 loss to Italian Sara Errani.
Kerber, the only member of the women’s world top 10 not to have suffered a pre-Open setback over the past week, safely progressed to the second round with a 4-6 6-0 6-3 win over Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.
With on-court temperatures nudging 40 degrees mid-afternoon at Olympic Park, the WTA’s extreme heat policy was applied, allowing Kerber and Svitolina to take a 10-minute break before the third and deciding set.
Eighth-seeded Belinda Bencic edged out Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 7-6(6) 1-6 6-4 and looms as a potential semifinal opponent for Stosur.
Catch Sam Stosur in action at the Apia International Sydney when she continues her campaign on Day 3 at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre. Book your tickets now!