In May, 2008 when Carla Suarez Navarro made her debut at the majors, at the French Open, she reached the quarterfinals as a qualifier jumping from 132 to 48 in the rankings. It was certainly an impressive run from a player who gives 10 and 15 cms in height to almost everyone she played. Still, she was quick about the court and appeared to have no fear of whomever was on the other side of the net.
Without doubt she was, and still is, a clay courter and many thought she would break into the top ten. It just has not happened for Suarez Navarro who continues to fight and give it all she has. There have been some good results here and there like some wins over top 10 players.
She had reached five finals and had never won a singles title, which just seemed surprising. The drought was finally broken earlier this month when, as the top seed, she won the Portugal Open title in Oeiras, defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. As they say third time lucky because Carla had been the runner-up there in 2012 and 2013.
She trailed the Russian 1-4 in the final set but then won 18 of the next 24 points for the title. It showed her fighting qualities and in one sense maybe this year will be another breakthrough season for her. With that win, she had won 26 matches this season which was more than any other woman player.
She said after the win: “I'm very happy I could finally win my first WTA title. I was a little bit nervous. It was a difficult match too. We know each other well, but the most important thing for me was just to be solid all the time. On match point I was only thinking to put the ball in, and that's what I did, and I felt so good when I finally finished the match.”
It took her five years to break into the top 20 but at least that result in Portugal helped her to her equal her career-high ranking of 14, but I go back to the question, why have we not seen more of Carla Suarez Navarro.
Like Justine Henin who is one of her favourite players, Suarez Navarro has a lovely one handed backhand and like Henin, she is not big physically but Henin won so much against opposition so much bigger than her. Why shouldn’t Suarez Navarro be able to replicate important results on a consistent basis?
It is difficult for a non-Spanish speaker to get to know Carla Suarez Navarro. She doesn’t speak any other language at all but no doubt she is a very nice person.
Quite possibly it could rest with the mental side of her game. As indicated she is a fighter but there are too many occasions she has let opponents get the better of her and has been overwhelmed. Another aspect is age; what happened in 2008 came in a rush and she did not handle things well as far as maturity was concerned. She is 25 now and maybe having notched a first singles title will turn her mind game around.
Let’s see what happens at Roland Garros later in the month, the tournament she nominates as her favourite and one where her heroine Justine Henin excelled at.