So, what to make of the first round of the Australian Open? We don’t want to be unnecessarily cruel but we think it showed just how fragile the state of Australian tennis is at the moment, especially in the women’s draw.

A huge bouquet to Samantha Stosur, who not only made it into the Open on her own ranking steam (98th in the world going into this week) but then actually won her opening match, against Severine Bremond of France.

With Alicia Molik still sidelined, Stosur is all we have left to cheer for. We’ve all known for a while that the stocks of rising talent were low but, even so, oooooooh boy.

Nothing against Nicole Pratt who, at 32, is fighting back from a chronic knee injury, but the fact that she contested her 16th Australian Open on a wildcard and could win only two games against Mary Pierce isn’t a great advertisement for the riches flowing from our junior female ranks. Worse, she says she’s playing better than she was this time last year.

A regular in the top 50 for the last seven years, Pratt has a mysterious aversion to Grand Slam tennis. In 43 attempts at playing singles at the world’s four slams, she has managed to make it to the third round or better only five times.

In her 16 Australian Opens, the Queenslander has lost in the first round eight times and the second round four times. The grass of Wimbledon is worse, with Pratt falling in the first round eight times in her ten attempts. The other two times, she was bundled out in the second round.

So who else can we look to?

Well, in singles play this week, Casey Dellacqua lasted less than an hour against top seed Lindsay Davenport, winning three games.

NSW’s Sophie Ferguson also won only three games, but made it to the hour mark, against 6th seed Nadia Petrova, from Russia. Lauren Breadmore won a whole four games against another Russian, 14th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, in 61 minutes.

As mentioned, Pratt won two games and lasted only 52 minutes – a neat commercial hour of viewing for Seven.

Thank God Jelena Dokic’s revolving-door nationality is back on the green and gold. Sure, she lost, but at least she went three sets against Virginie Razzano of France. More importantly, Jelena’s time of two hours and five minutes on court meant the average duration of an Australian woman being beaten lifted from 57 minutes to 71 minutes.

And the men? Well, as usual, we have Lleyton Hewitt and fragments of future hope. Peter Luczak had a strong win while Nathan Healey not only won but showed he could also make it as an Aussie cricketer by sledging his injured Italian opponent, saying he had “pulled a heart muscle.”

But that was it. Mark Philippoussis, Chris Guccione and Marc Kimmich couldn’t win a set, while an underdone Wayne Arthurs creaked to a four set loss.