Sto­sur, Kuznetsova head­line star-stud­ded Ho­bart In­ter­na­tional

Mercury (Hobart) - - SPORT - ADAM SMITH

ONE of the strong­est fields in re­cent mem­ory has been as­sem­bled for next month’s Ho­bart In­ter­na­tional — which will also cre­ate a his­toric first.

For the first time in the tour­na­ment’s ex­is­tence two for­mer Grand Slam cham­pi­ons will com­pete in the same year, with Aus­tralian favourite Sam Sto­sur, pic­tured, joined by twotime ma­jor cham­pion Svet­lana Kuznetsova.

Sto­sur, the 2011 US Open cham­pion, was con­firmed as the first draw­card two weeks ago and an­other tour vet­eran in Rus­sian Kuznetsova, who owns the 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open crowns among her 18 WTA ti­tles, will line up at the Do­main Ten­nis Cen­tre.

Kuznetsova returns to Ho­bart for the first time since 2004 when she was an 18-year-old ris­ing star about to her an­nounce her­self on the world stage. Now 34, Kuznetsova fin­ished seven con­sec­u­tive sea­sons from 2004-2010 ranked in­side the top five and af­ter slid­ing out­side the top 100 last year, re­bounded in the past 12 months to re­turn to 54 and show her best ten­nis can still mix it with the top play­ers.

Her 2019 high­lights in­clude four top-10 wins, one against world No. 1 Aus­tralian Ash Barty to reach the fi­nal in Cincin­nati. “Hav­ing Elise come back as world No. 17, it re­ally strength­ens that [the qual­ity of the field],” tour­na­ment di­rec­tor Darren Sturgess said.

“We’ve spo­ken be­fore about this event re­ally show­cas­ing and bring­ing tal­ent to the fore, but to have her and Sam Sto­sur and Kuznetsova com­ing back, that show­cases that we are an event that’s more and more ap­peal­ing on the tour.”

French Fed Cup win­ning team­mates Caro­line Gar­cia, Al­ize Cor­net and Fiona Ferro will also fea­ture at the event, with this year’s top seed Gar­cia, who part­nered with Kristina Mlade­n­ovic to clinch the Fed Cup fi­nal dou­bles match against Aus­tralia, re­turn­ing for a sec­ond straight year. Cor­net, the 2016 Ho­bart cham­pion, will make her sev­enth ap­pear­ance.

Seven play­ers who won WTA ti­tles in 2019 are in the field — spear­headed by the first back to back cham­pion and world No. 17 Elise Mertens — while 11 reached ca­reer high sea­son end­ing rank­ings.

Elena Ry­bak­ina, who will as­sume the sec­ond seed­ing at the tour­na­ment, won the Launceston In­ter­na­tional ti­tle in Fe­bru­ary to spark a break­out sea­son where she slashed her rank­ing from 169 to 36.

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