Sam StosurBRISBANE – Fitter than ever, Sam Stosur is not the only thing in good shape on the Australian tennis circuit this summer.
The sport itself – reinvigorated by Stosur’s US Open success – is also in fine health as indicated by crowd figures at the start of the Brisbane International and Australian Open ticket sales.
Day two of Brisbane’s joint ATP-WTA tournament smashed previous attendance records with 18,478 fans filing into the Queensland Tennis Centre.
The day session drew a crowd of 12,595 – almost 4000 better than the previous best – while Pat Rafter Arena was packed out in a record Monday evening session with 5883 cheering Stosur on to a 6-2, 6-3 first-round victory against Anastasiya Yakimova.
The Brisbane International’s upgraded status to a premier WTA event has attracted a stronger women’s field in 2012 with former world No.1s Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic challenging top-seed Stosur for the Evonne Goolagong Cawley Trophy.
But Tennis Australia officials said the Gold Coaster’s grand slam breakthrough at the US Open, plus Bernard Tomic’s Wimbledon quarter-final run, was driving interest in the game.
As well as ticket sales being up, junior registrations in Tennis Australia’s hotshots program is at a record high.
By no means are officials shouting from the rooftops that tennis is back but the early signs are more than encouraging at a time fading poster-boy Lleyton Hewitt is in the twilight of his career.
The Brisbane International also has a record-high six Australian men in the 32-strong main draw, with Tomic and fellow 19-year-old James Duckworth, and Matt Ebden, Marinko Matosevic, Ben Mitchell and John Millman.
The modest Stosur isn’t into claiming credit but on Monday night said it was nice to see more interest in the sport through her US Open triumph.
”If that’s the impact a player can have on their home tournament and in their home country then that’s fantastic,” she said.
”When you’ve got a player that’s doing well it always feeds down.
”There’s not too many tournaments in the world that you have a soldout first couple of days. It shows how great the event is and how excited and popular tennis is becoming again.”
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