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Fitness the key to Stosur resurgence


Newfound agility and improved stamina is behind Samantha Stosur’s reappearance in the world’s top 15 after a near three-year absence.

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Stosur surged to a provisional rankings rise to 19th in the world following her upset victory over 11th seed, and last year’s runner up, Lucie Safarova.

She jumped two more places, to 17th, following Tuesday’s ultra-impressive straight sets win over sixth seed and tournament dark horse Simona Halep.

And rose higher still – to 14th – after downing Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova as she locked in a semi-final berth and guaranteed pay day of 500,000 euros ($A773,500).

It is the first time the veteran Australian, who entered Roland Garros ranked 24th, has seen the top 15 since August 2013 and puts her well and truly in the frame for a top-16 seeding at Wimbledon.

That would mean Stosur would not be drawn to play one of the top eight seeds at the All-England Club before the fourth round.

And the key to the rise, according to coach David Taylor, can be boiled down to the incredible fitness of Stosur, who jokes this is the first time in five years that she’s felt quite so fit and healthy.

While the 32-year-old has always been a physical player and a fitness freak, since November she has been working with Tennis Australia’s Stefano Barsacchi who has put the 2011 US Open champion on an altered program.

Lifting weights – a practice which helped develop some of the most fearsome guns and powerful groundstrokes in women’s tennis – went out the window for more running.

The result has been that Stosur is lighter on her feet and able to stay in rallies longer – and on the evidence of her form throughout the claycourt season, she hasn’t lost the power game which has served her so well.

“She’s moving a lot better and when someone as powerful as Sam is set up she can really deliver,” coach David Taylor said.

“When she’s a little bit off balance she’s not the same player.

“That’s just given her a bit more confidence to be aggressive when it counts.”

Taylor says the work she’s been doing with Barsacchi has been key to Stosur’s renaissance this year.

“Fitness has been a big part of her tennis. Fitness is a big part of everyone’s tennis now,” he said.

“I just think the way she slides to balls, defensively is a little bit better than she used to be. She can stay in points a lot better now.

“She’s always been very good offensively, but her defence now is getting a little bit better.

“That’s where women’s tennis is a little bit behind the men – defensive skills – because of the superior movement.

“That area there’s a lot of improvement to be made and she’s making that improvement, and that’s why she’s feeling good.”


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