Australian champion Sam Stosur has stunned the tennis community by coming out of retirement for a one-off appearance at the Strasbourg International on Sunday.
Last year, Stosur announced that the 2022 Australian Open would be her last, with the Queenslander deciding to focus solely on doubles after the Melbourne-based grand slam tournament, where she was knocked out by Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round.
Watch Tennis Live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Live Coverage of ATP + WTA Tour Tournaments including Every Finals Match. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
“A huge thank you to @tennisaustralia for giving me this opportunity to finish my singles career at my home Grand Slam,” she posted to Instagram in December.
“It really means a lot to me to be able to finish in front of my family, friends and Aussie fans who have stuck by me through thick and thin.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a mix of emotions but I wouldn’t want it any other way as I always thought I’d finish playing in Australia. I do however plan to play the rest of the year in doubles but this will close the first chapter of my career.”
But tennis pundits were left baffled when the 38-year-old appeared on the draw for the clay-court tournament in France, where she played local star Harmony Tan in the round of 32 — the 1064th singles match of her professional career.
“Didn’t think I’d be doing this again until two days ago,” she posted to Instagram on Sunday.
“Nice feeling and emotions being to play on this court in singles again.”
Stosur suffered a straight sets 6-2 6-1 defeat, with Tan progressing through to the round of 16 where she will face Belgium’s Maryna Zanevska.
Speaking to reporters after the loss, Stosur explained that event organisers had been looking around for someone to replace a late dropout.
The 2010 US Open champion had previously won the Strasbourg singles tournament in 2015 and 2017.
“If Roland Garros calls me and says, ‘You wanna play?’, sure,” she laughed.
“But, no, my time for singles is finished.
“This wasn’t a comeback to singles, it was just a good opportunity.
“It was good, it was fun, considering I didn’t know I was competing here until a couple of days ago.
“For sure, I was a bit nervous. I guess I haven’t done many things when I wasn’t fully prepared.
“So going into here was a difficult scenario, but mostly I was just excited to get another chance of playing singles in a place where I’ve had a lot of success and enjoy myself.
“Overall, I actually hit the ball really well — I hit some balls as if it were five years ago when the ball was going exactly where I wanted it to! But on other points, she was making me move side to side and it was hard.”
Stosur will also feature in the tournament’s doubles draw, facing Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse and Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk on Tuesday at 11.45pm AEST.