It’s been five years since Australia has had two of its women simultaneously ranked in the top 25.
And that will be the situation when Sam Stosur and Daria Gavrilova arrive in Sydney later this week for the Apia International.
Back in 2011, it was Stosur and Jarmila Gajdosova who resided in the game’s upper ranking bracket. Stosur remains there at world No.21; joining her now is Gavrilova, who is ranked 25th and currently defending her title at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
The pair will this year fly the Aussie flag in Sydney, one of the women’s tours strongest and most prestigious stops on the calendar.
Despite being ranked where they are, both women only narrowly qualified for the field – the main-draw ranking cut-off was 29, making it the highest cut-off of any WTA tournament in the world in the past year.
“I was not totally surprised as it is always such a tough field in Sydney,” said Gavrilova, who returns to the Harbour City for the first time since 2015. “There are no easy matches (here). Even the qualifying has so many good players.”
Gavrilova planned to play in Sydney in 2016 but withdrew at the 11th hour due to a stomach muscle strain. Thankfully it settled, allowing her to tackle the Australian Open in full health – a tournament where she recorded her best Slam result with a run to the fourth round.
But the Russian-born Aussie, who gained Australian citizenship in late 2015, said she was thrilled to be returning to Sydney to play in front of a crowd captivated by a new Australian star with boundless energy and tenacious instincts.
“Sydney is a beautiful city and obviously it is a great tournament with such tough players. I really want to challenge myself against the best players in the world,” she said.
“I have been working hard in the off season and now it is time to compete. I think Sydney is a great place for me to play just before the Australian Open.
“It will be very different (returning to Australia with a bigger profile) but I think I will really love it. Last year the crowds were so nice to me … I was a little shocked at how much they got behind me, so I am excited to play again at home this year.”
Stosur will be making her 11th appearance at the Apia International, playing for the third year in a row after opting to play in Hobart in 2014.
The Queenslander was a finalist in Sydney back in 2005 – losing a thriller to Alicia Molik in what remains the only all-Aussie WTA final in 25 years – and progressed to the quarterfinals last year.
It’s little surprise the tournament has proven a relatively happy hunting ground for Stosur over the years – she is a long-time Sydney resident and often trains at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre.
“Obviously here (in Sydney) you’ve got a much stronger field, and I guess you’re matching up against players that you’ve got to be beating through quarters, semis, finals possibly,” Stosur said.
“No disrespect to … the other events, but this is where the highest-ranked players come, so it’s a great test to be playing them every single match almost.”
To see Stosur and Gavrilova in action at Apia International Sydney 2017, get your tickets at ticketek.com.au.