Samantha Stosur ran all the way to the French Open semifinals before finally falling to Svetlana Kuznetsova so now I guess I’d better start finding out who she is.

Samantha Stosur

Of course I know the name Samantha Stosur. She’s a great doubles player with 22 doubles titles – including two slams – and was once ranked number one in doubles. And I vaguely associate her with Alicia Molik, another very good Aussie player whose career was dismantled in some way or another by illness and/or injury.

In Sam Stosur’s case the illness was Lyme Disease, a potentially dangerous illness which is contracted from tick bites. Stosur got up to number 27 in singles before getting ill in 2007 and missed almost a year. She’s what I’d call an average player in singles mainly because of her size. She’s a tick under 5ft8in (173cm) and weighs in at 143lbs (65kg). Svetlana Kuznetsova doesn’t have the skinny tall build of many of the Eastern Europeans – she’s only slightly taller than Stosur – but she’s got a good 15 more pounds (7kg) of power and that’s what sunk Stosur in today’s semifinal.

Admittedly I’m not a big follower of the women’s game but you can’t exactly blame me for not knowing much about Stosur. This is the first time she’s been past the fourth round at a slam in singles and her career record on clay is barely above .500. And she has no singles titles.

Stosur seemed to be thinking the same thing because she looked a bit spooked in the first set. She’s got an excellent service motion but she wasn’t going for first serves until she was already down a set and even then she got down 4-1 in the second set tiebreaker before uncorking a hammer of an inside out forehand and coming back to win the tiebreaker 7-5.

Kuzy countered by taking a protracted bathroom break after the second set and then, possibly concerned about a blister on her foot and a slight ankle sprain from her quarterfinal win over Serena Williams, she started playing more aggressively to end points and get her butt off the court as soon as possible. Of course that means more errors and Stosur got a break point at 2-2 in the third set. But Stosur missed two straight returns and, in the next game, made two more consecutive errors to go down a break.

Kuzy held on to her nerve and found her way in to the final against Dinara Safina. Commentator Martina Navratilova, see below, thinks that Stosur has enough stuff to win a slam some day. She’ll be up to a career high ranking of 18 after today and she got some guns on those arms of hers, but I think a lot of the top players can overpower her and it would be unusual to see someone make their way into the top ten all of a sudden in her mid-twenties.

If Stosur does something special at Wimbledon, a surface her game is better suited to, then likely I’m wrong.

Martina Navratilova

Martina, bless her heart, is in trouble again. She’s always been outspoken and thankfully that hasn’t changed. At the Paris ceremony to receive the Philippe Chatrier award from the International Tennis Federation this week, Martina offered ten changes to improve today’s game.

Some ITF people thought Martina should have chosen a different platform to express her views – especially as the ceremony took place in the middle of the French Open and the award is named after a former French tennis player and journalist who was president of the ITF for 20 years.

But what better platform could there be? See what she had to say below courtesy of Bob Larson’s Tennis News and tell me what you think. I disagree with the standardized tennis balls and hard courts – they add a diversity that’s unique to tennis, excessive ball bouncing – it’s taken care of by the time clock rule, and false tosses – a bit too fascistic for me, but otherwise I’m with her 100%. Six out of ten ain’t bad.

  1. NO LETS “We need to speed up the game and this would certainly help. If the ball hits the top of the net on a serve, so be it. There’s no need to stop the point. Let’s keep going and maybe we could call this the Patrick Rafter Rule because he argued against it so much a few years ago.”
  2. NO MORE THAN FIVE BOUNCES OF THE BALL BEFORE SERVE “Again this would speed the game up and there really is no need to spend so much time preparing. Without a doubt we could call this the Novak Djokovic Rule.”
  3. NO MORE FALSE TOSSES “Same sort of thing but if a server gets things wrong that’s his or her fault and should not delay the game.”
  4. GRUNTING NEEDS TO COME TO AN END “It’s annoying. It can be a hindrance. It is completely unnecessary. This is one piece of legislation I would really like to see enforced for the good of the game. You don’t hear Roger Federer making a wail or a shriek every time he hits the ball.”
  5. FASTER COURTS “This would most certainly encourage players to come to the net a lot more and make the sport more varied again. Too many players play exactly the same way nowadays.”
  6. SMALLER RACKETS “Technology now means the best way to play is simply sit on the baseline and hit big groundstrokes. I’m not advocating a return to wood but just making the head size smaller would put more importance on true skill.”
  7. A TIME CLOCK RULE “How many players nowadays pay heed to the rightful time they should spend between points and how many officials honestly enforce it in the way it should? Team Tennis has proved having a clock on court would also involve the spectators and make it impossible to digress.”
  8. STANDARDISING TENNIS BALLS “Too many injuries are caused and consequently too many leading players get injured and therefore miss important tournaments because balls vary so much from week to week. Having one uniform ball would help resolve this issue.”
  9. STANDARDISING HARD COURT SURFACES “Of course this does not apply to clay or grass but so many hard courts are so different. So are really hard, some are much softer and once again this variation makes players much more likely to sustain injury.”
  10. WHY IMPOSE RULES ON THE SIZES OF LOGOS AND PATCHES? “Golf has flown way in front of tennis when it comes to endorsements and sponsorship. There is no need to hit the manufacturers and potential backers when they want to put money into the game.”

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