When I watched Venus walk onto Rod Laver Arena with Carla Suarez Navarro last night, I thought, “This shouldn’t be too bad of a match.” I recalled Suarez Navarro from her run at the French Open – I always remember a girl with a good one-handed backhand – and thought that she could hang in there for a set or two. Meaning, at least win a few games.
But not pull off the upset of the tournament!
Watching her play, and eventually beat Venus Williams yesterday, I found myself wondering if this girl could make it into the top 10. I think so. Here’s why:
1. The Spanish Steps – she moves low and quick around the court.
2. Fitness – it was a long three-setter and she finished strong. Of course, the real physical test will be how she feels for her next match.
3. No fear. Venus had a match point or two against her and the Spaniard played out of it. She found a way to dictate points against one of the most powerful hitters and servers in the game. That’s the sign of Top 10 heart.
4. That backhand. Brad Gilbert said that Carla’s reminded him of Justine Henin’s. Given that they’re small of stature female players with one-handers, that’s a fair comparison. Obviously, Henin is in a different class, but I actually find Carla’s stroke to be a bit smoother. Which brings us to. . .
5. Smooth moves – if you watch a player’s stroke on slow-mo, you usually see a big shot accompanied by a big grimace on her face. When Suarez Navarro hits a ball, that goofy expression of hers doesn’t change at all. She’s not overextending herself – meaning she could stay healthier for longer stretches than the oft-injured power hitters.
Yes, I realize that Carla Suarez Navarro’s not going to be the next Maria Sharapova, but that’s why I like her. We need a scruffy, petite one-hander driving the Big Babes crazy on tour. Vamos, Carla!