Home » Aussie champion ‘heartbroken’ as shock diagnosis puts life on hold

Aussie champion ‘heartbroken’ as shock diagnosis puts life on hold

Storm Hunter’s Olympic dream has been dashed and her plans to crack the world’s top 100 derailed after scans confirmed a ruptured right Achilles tendon for the surging Australian tennis star.

The 29-year-old was set to play a key role in singles and doubles in Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup qualification tie against Mexico in Brisbane from Friday.

But disaster struck in Thursday’s final practice session, when the Rockhampton product collapsed to the surface of Pat Rafter Arena.

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Hunter had scans on Thursday night and confirmed the bad news on Friday in a social media post.

“I am devastated and heartbroken but incredibly grateful to be around the team and I know I have a great group of people around me that will help me get back on court as soon as possible,” she said.

“Thank you so much everyone for the messages of support and love, I’m excited to stay for the tie and support our Aussie girls.”

So emotional was the injury that even Mexico rallied around Hunter, delivering flowers to their rival.

She put on a brave face on Friday to watch the opening matches from the grandstands at Pat Rafter Arena.

Arina Rodionova had to overcome some team tennis nerves but Daria Saville, who replaced Hunter in the line-up, had no such problem as the pair put Australia on the cusp of a return to the finals.

Storm Hunter was still all smiles after suffering the Achilles injury. Credit: Instagram

“She’s heartbroken,” Rodionova said after her win in the first rubber.

“She really wanted to play here but also the upcoming few months; it’s going to be tough.

“We all cried several times (after the injury). It’s such a heavy thing; your teammate, a day before the tie. It was a lot.

“We tried to play for her and asked her to stay with us, so (we could) support her.

“When you get injured like that you kind of feel nobody really cares about you, but it’s not like that.

“If we win, we all win.”

Saville re-entered the top 100 earlier this week as she continues to bounce back from her own long-term injury, an ACL tear.

She made the most of her call-up with a win in the second rubber while keeping Hunter front of mind.

“I was pretty zoned in,” Saville said.

“Yesterday, what happened with Storm gave me perspective again. I’m motivated even more.

“(Serious injury) has happened to me … (but) you get back to a routine and probably take a few things for granted.

“Now it happened to my best friend, you can’t take it for granted.”

Storm Hunter puts on a brave face at Pat Rafter Arena, watching from the sidelines a day after her injury. Credit: DE SS/AAPIMAGE

The team needs just one win in Saturday’s reverse singles or doubles to book a spot in November’s 12-team finals tournament as Australia, runner-up twice in the last five years, chase their first title since 1974.

“It’s devastating, whatever words you want to put to it,” captain Sam Stosur, who played at five Olympics, said on Friday.

“An Olympic year, one of the best doubles players in the world … she was going to be a shot.

“It’s not just this weekend, it’s such a small part of what now she’s going to miss out on.

“Emotionally it’s very hard at this point, but credit to her for coming out to support the team.”

Hunter, the year-ending world No.1 in doubles, was the feel-good story of the Australian Open in January when she surged from qualifying to make the third round at Melbourne Park.

Her form continued, taking Hunter to a career-high singles mark of 114 and she was pushing Saville and Rodionova in the battle to be Australia’s highest-ranked women’s singles player.

Recovery time from Achilles ruptures is at least four months but can take up to a year.

But July’s Olympics — where Hunter could have featured in all three disciplines — is almost certainly off the table, with a long absence likely from the WTA Tour.

It isn’t the Queenslander’s first setback, after injury forced Hunter to give up singles for almost two years in her mid-20s.

She had been eagerly anticipating a return to her home state to star in Australia’s first home Cup tie since 2019.

“When they did the draw it was like, ‘Please be at home’,” she told AAP earlier this month.

“It’s the dream and I haven’t had that opportunity, only being around the team in recent years.

“My level’s higher than I thought it was and the sky is the limit now.”

– with 7NEWS

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