HONG KONG: Former US Open champion Samantha Stosur declared she felt “100 per cent” again after she battled into the second round of the WTA Hong Kong Open in three sets on Monday.
Stosur, who is on the comeback trail after suffering a stress fracture of her right hand in June when in tip-top form, appeared to be cruising at a set and 3-1 up against the unheralded Lee Ya-hsuan of Taiwan.
But the Australian dropped five of the next six games with a string of unforced errors to let the world number 303 take the set 6-4.
Stosur, 33, drew on all her experience to race through the third set, cutting out the sloppy mistakes to progress 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in a hard-fought hour and 57 minutes at Victoria Park.
“I was really happy with the third set, the way I came out and finished that off really quickly,” Stosur said.
“I really stepped it up, served better and was able to hit some winners. And once I got that lead I was able to keep it, unlike the second set,” added the Australian world number 43.
A resurgent Stosur earlier this year had looked to be approaching the form that took her to the US Open crown in 2011, winning the WTA title in Strasbourg this May.
She followed up in June by reaching the last 16 of the French Open where she was only edged out in a three-set epic by the eventual champion Jelena Ostapenko.
But soon after X-rays revealed the damage to her troublesome right hand was a bone fracture and she had to take a complete break.
“After the French Open I really came to a sudden halt and I didn’t hit a ball for about eight weeks which is the longest time I can ever remember not playing,” said Stosur.
The enforced rest meant she missed Wimbledon and the US Open, returning to action only last month at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
“I was really disappointed not to make it back for the US Open and miss that whole US summer which is a time I feel like I can do well,” Stosur said.
“It felt like it took forever. But I feel like it’s pretty much 100 per cent now.
“Even when I first started in Tokyo and Guangzhou I was still really tentative with trying to hit my forehand. But now I feel like I can go out and practise and not think about it.”
The only seeded player in action on day one in Hong Kong, China’s number two Zhang Shuai, wasted little time and energy in crushing her Japanese opponent Kurumi Nara with a “double bagel” 6-0, 6-0.
The number eight seed, ranked 31 in the world, had too much power, accuracy and guile for the hapless world number 101 and raced past Nara in a dominant 48 minutes on centre court. — AFP