Samantha Stosur’s retirement isn’t keeping her from tennis. She speaks to Kasey Symons about new media opportunities and being named Australian Billie Jean King Cup Captain.
Former Australian tennis star Samantha Stosur’s preparation for the 2024 Australian Open looked a little bit different this year.
After announcing her retirement on home soil at the 2023 Australian Open after over twenty years on the professional tour, the tennis great obviously wasn’t preparing to take the court this year. But Stosur is still heavily involved in the game she loves post-retirement and is taking up new challenges with her trademark dedication and precision.
“Obviously, a very different year compared to what I’ve been used to. But I think it probably gives you the first time to really think about, ‘oh, yeah, I’m really happy with my career. I’m very proud of what I achieved’. Whereas I think when you’re in it still, it’s kind of hard to give yourself a bit of a pat on the back, because you’re always looking for that next thing and driving for more success.
“But then when you do step away, it’s like, ‘Ah, that was pretty good. I’m very happy with that’. And I know I got everything out of my tennis that I possibly could have. So I didn’t leave the sport with any regrets,” Stosur said.
In the lead up to the 2024 Australian Open, Stosur is active around events, lending her talents as emcee, interviewer and commentator as she continues to develop her role in sports media. I speak to Stosur after she interviews Australian men’s player Alex de Minaur at an event launching the new ASICS SOLUTION SPEED TM FF 3 tennis shoe that de Minaur and gold medallist Belinda Bencic will wear on tour.
Samantha Stosur interviews Alex de Minaur at the ASICS store in Melbourne. Image supplied.
Interviewing de Minaur, Stosur is charming, comfortable and considerate. Allowing a pre-tournament de Minaur space to reflect on his approach to the Australian Open and understanding from her own experience the mindset an athlete needs to be in before taking the court. It’s a skill that is also serving her well as she hits the commentary booth more often.
“I’ve always dabbled a little bit with some commentary throughout my career and then I got the opportunity to do Roland Garros [in 2023] and I did Wimbledon as well out of the Channel Nine Studios here in Melbourne. So that was really good. It was great experience.
“[It’s] something different, the commentary side I’d done before, but you know, we do the pre-shows and that’s live for half an hour and all of that. I’d never done anything like that before [live commentating]. So you kind of get that sort of sick feeling in your stomach again, just before you start and you don’t get that every day doing, you know, normal stuff. So it was a bit of a buzz and adrenaline rush at times. But again, I’ve really enjoyed it. I probably liked it more than what I thought I might have.”
Stosur is also enjoying the point of connection commentary is giving her to stay in tennis.
“It’s a way to stay involved in the sport. And keep tabs on things and you know, I wake up and still probably check results most days. But then when you’re commentating about it, you’ve really got to be on it and feel like you can give something to the audience watching. So yeah, I loved that. And it’s certainly something I try and do a little bit more.”
Stosur commentated for Channel Nine again for the 2024 Australian Open and leading into the tournament, reflects on advice given to her when she first started calling the shots. It’s advice she’s keen to give others who also want to get involved in broadcasting to ensure they feel confident sharing their individual insights and opinions.
“It was actually a bit of advice that was given to me, because I’d done some commentary, while I was still playing. And I always felt like, I liked it, but it was sort of hard to really try and give a full opinion, knowing that I’d be walking back in the locker room the next day and potentially see those players—not that I was ever trying to, you know, talk negatively or anything, but talking about your peers like that, and then seeing them was a little bit different.
“Whereas now when you’re outside, like really give an opinion. And again, it’s not about being negative or harsh, but it can be about anything. I never want to be overly critical. I think you can highlight lots of really great positive things. But yeah, just know that you’ve got the audience there. And they want to hear things that they can’t see. So [I’m] trying to give those little bits that are right from my history. [I] see something in the back of the top corner of the screen or something like that, if I like those sorts of things, then the normal everyday people watching on TV, they don’t pick that up, so don’t be afraid to kind of give that extra little bit.”
As well as commentary, Stosur has now taken up the role of Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup Captain—another exciting challenge.
“I feel like it’s quite an honour to be able to captain an Australian team. And one that I played in for many, many years. And I know that the girls love playing for their country, and we’ve got a really great culture, I feel like in our team. Especially over the last ten years or so under Alicia [Molik, former Australian Billie Jean Cup Captain].”
After forming such strong friendships with many on the team, Stosur will now continue to develop her leadership skills to give her players the support they need.
“It’s funny now going from the relationships I guess I had with a lot of the players is friendships. I guess we were competitors throughout different stages—but I’m fair bit older than all of them! So that competitive, sort of against-each-other was a little bit different.
“But now I can really feel like I can try and pass on some of my experiences. And yeah, it’s a different position for me to be in. Obviously, I’ve never led a team or managed a group of people like that as such, outside of my own little career, but I’m really looking forward to it.
“I love watching them. I love supporting them. I think first and foremost, that’s what it’s about, knowing that you can support them. They feel like they can trust you. So you build on that trust and knowing that they can kind of call on me whenever they need and vice versa. So look, it’s gonna be a great year ahead.”
Stosur always a drawcard for young tennis fans. She signs tennis balls for the crowd. Image supplied.
Reflecting on these opportunities post her playing career is something Stosur is mindful of as the women in sport conversation continues to develop and garner attention. With so much focus on growing women and girls’ participation in sport, there also needs to be focus on keeping women in sport and in off-court positions.
“Oh, look, I think you can’t have too much focus on it. I think we’re probably just at the beginning. I mean, obviously the huge headline of last year was the Matildas. So I think that really showed that women’s sport can bring a whole nation together. And how fantastic?! I don’t think we’ve really ever felt that on a huge scale like that before. So I feel like it is just the beginning of that growth. And why shouldn’t it be on equal terms? Just when you take a seat back and think about it, it’s like, this is ridiculous that we haven’t gotten to this point earlier.
“But nevertheless, we’re here now. And it’s certainly something I think we could continue to build on. And I think having those opportunities for women, during and after, obviously, I think a big part of it. At least from the tennis side of it, we want to talk about women in coaching.”
Stosur also highlights the importance of supporting women who are parents and how many women sport loses when family choices are made and sport doesn’t welcome women back.
“It’s hard, a lot of women stopped their career to go and have a family. That’s just the way things work and the way it goes, but then post that, there’s got to be doors open for women to get back into the workforce and into those areas that obviously they’ve had success in. So yeah, I think it’s just the beginning. And we can keep striving for more and more, because we’ve got a lot to add.”