Nearly twenty years after her Australian Open debut, Sam Stosur will stare down the barrel of her tennis future in an opening round clash with a fellow Aussie who is only 20 years old.
Destanee Aiava will take on 36-year-old Stosur who is playing for a 19th time at Melbourne Park, having first taken to the Grand Slam stage in Melbourne in 2002.
The duo could not be at more different places in their careers.
Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion and former world number four, no longer carries the hopes of a nation and, having gained a wildcard to play, could yet be featuring in her final Australian Open.
Aivaa, on the other hand, is just getting started.
The first player born in the 21st century to play at a Grand Slam when, at 16, she won a wildcard into the 2017 Open, Aivaa also has some winning form behind her.
She recorded an opening round victory at last week’s Gippsland Trophy lead-in event, and Aivaa said she now felt a “better player” than in her three previous Open starts.
“I‘m feeling quite comfortable now, feeling like I belong here,” Aivaa said recently.
“I think I’ve put in a lot of work, as well, before these tournaments. I’m feeling quite confident in myself.
“I think I’m a lot better player this year.”
Stosur’s Open preparation, having spent most of 2020 off the court because of COVOD-19, wasn’t ideal after being comprehensively beaten 6-2, 6-0 by Czech Marie Bouzkova in the Yarra Valley Classic.
It was Stosur’s first match since March, 2020, and she hasn’t made the second round at the Australian Open since 2015.
But unburdened by expectation she just wants to play her best and see what the future holds.
“Through the summer I just want to play well, play how I know I can and enjoy myself out there,” Stosur said.
“I just want to let it happen and play with freedom. I have struggled with that in the past a little bit, so that’s really the main goal for me. If I can do that, win or lose, I’ll walk off happy.”
Maddison Inglis faces the toughest task of the Aussies in action on day two, taking on defending champion Sofia Kenin.
Daria Gavrilova, who was beaten by Serena Williams last week in the Aussie’s first game in four months, also starts her 2021 campaign on Tuesday along with Arina Rodionova and Astra Sharma.
AUSSIES IN ACTION ON DAY TWO
Sam Stosur v Destanee Aiava
Daria Gavrilova v Sara Sorribes Tormo (SPN)
Maddison Inglis v Sofia Kenin (USA)
Arina Rodionova v Madison Brengle (USA)
Astra Sharma v Nao Hibino (JPN)