Sto­sur eye­ing Ho­bart as Open warm-up

Mercury (Hobart) - - SPORT - ADAM SMITH

FOR­MER Grand Slam cham­pion Sam Sto­sur will re­turn to the Ho­bart In­ter­na­tional for the first time in six years when she lines up in the 2020 edi­tion of the tour­na­ment in Jan­uary.

In a ma­jor boost for the event the pop­u­lar Aus­tralian, who reached the semi-fi­nals at the Do­main Ten­nis Cen­tre in 2014, has opted to use Tas­ma­nia as her lead up to the Aus­tralian Open.

Sto­sur also led Aus­tralia to an em­phatic Fed Cup tie vic­tory against Rus­sia in Ho­bart in Fe­bru­ary six years ago.

Now in the twi­light of her ca­reer, the 2011 US Open cham­pion has slid to No. 98 in the world rank­ings fol­low­ing a dif­fi­cult 2019 sea­son, hav­ing reached a ca­reer high of No. 4 in 2011.

How­ever she showed glimpses of her best in the sec­ond half of the year, reach­ing the fi­nal at the Guangzhou In­ter­na­tional in Septem­ber be­fore go­ing down to this year’s Ho­bart cham­pion Sofia Kenin.

The 35-year-old also part­nered world No. 1 Ash Barty in the de­cid­ing dou­bles match of the re­cent Fed Cup fi­nal de­feat to France.

“The tour­na­ment’s al­ways known for unearthing cham­pi­ons, but to get a Grand Slam win­ner back af­ter play­ing many years ago, cer­tainly it is great,” tour­na­ment di­rec­tor Dar­ren Sturgess said.

“That shows the ap­peal that Ho­bart as an event is con­tin­u­ing to gather.”

Sto­sur has tra­di­tion­ally used Bris­bane and Sydney as her lead in for the first ma­jor of the year.

She could be joined in the state by sev­eral high pro­file play­ers, with a host of for­mer world No. 1 and Grand Slam cham­pi­ons a gen­uine chance of fea­tur­ing due to their cur­rent rank­ings.

NICK Kyr­gios has de­clared Aus­tralia can win the Davis Cup af­ter Lley­ton He­witt’s team com­fort­ably saw off Colom­bia 3-0 in Madrid.

Kyr­gios and Alex de Min­aur cruised to straight-sets vic­to­ries over Ale­jan­dro Gon­za­lez and Daniel Galan re­spec­tively to open up an unas­sail­able 2-0 lead. Those vic­to­ries were fol­lowed up by an im­pres­sive dou­bles win by John Peers and Jor­dan Thomp­son who beat world No.1 duo Robert Farah and Juan Se­bas­tian Ca­bal — the reign­ing Wim­ble­don and US Open cham­pi­ons.

The Aussie pair wasted a match point at 5-4 and then saved three in the tiebreak be­fore clos­ing out a thrilling 6-3 3-6 7-6 (8-6) vic­tory.

World No.18 de Min­aur blew away Galan 6-3 6-2, a day af­ter the world No.193 took Bel­gian world No.11 David Gof­fin to three sets in the open­ing Group D tie. A zoned-in Kyr­gios ear­lier on Tues­day pro­duced a pow­er­ful dis­play against an over­matched but gal­lant op­po­nent, win­ning 6-4 6-4.

Gon­za­lez was a late in­clu­sion af­ter San­ti­ago Gi­raldo, who played Belgium’s Steve Dar­cis on Mon­day, was deemed un­fit to play.

Kyr­gios, who was lauded for his at­ti­tude around the squad this week by team cap­tain Lley­ton He­witt, showed none of his histri­on­ics, leav­ing the un­der­arm serves and tween­ers in the locker in his first match for Aus­tralia since Fe­bru­ary 2018.

The 24-year-old was im­pe­ri­ous on serve, hurl­ing down 16 aces and drop­ping only one point off his serve in the open­ing set and five in the sec­ond. Kyr­gios wrapped up the win in just more than an hour in front of a crowd loudly dom­i­nated by Colom­bian fans, then de­clared he is feel­ing in great con­di­tion.

“I haven’t played that much in the past cou­ple of months but I took time off to get ready for this event,” Kyr­gios said on-court af­ter the win.

“It was good. Davis Cup ties are never easy and rank­ings go out of the win­dow. We saw a cou­ple of up­sets. I think we can win it for sure.”

COM­ING BACK: Grand Slam cham­pion Sam Sto­sur is re­turn­ing to Ho­bart af­ter a six-year ab­sence. Pic­ture: GETTY

Pic­ture: GETTY

FEEL­ING CON­FI­DENT: Nick Kyr­gios plays a fore­hand against Ale­jan­dro Gon­za­lez of Columbia and Alex De Min­aur cel­e­brates a point dur­ing their Davis Cup sin­gles wins in Madrid.

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