Commentary

Suarez Navarro aggressive in win

Who is this Carla Suarez Navarro and how did she manage to beat Venus Williams?

Updated: January 22, 2009, 12:54 PM ET
By Kamakshi Tandon | Special to ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Who is this Carla Suarez Navarro and how did she manage to beat Venus Williams?

Those were the questions on everyone's mind as the two shook hands following Venus' shocking 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 defeat to the obscure young Spaniard.

Anyone hoping to get some insight during the courtside interview was about to be disappointed. Suarez Navarro, who speaks very little English and isn't particularly eloquent even in her native Spanish, began with an earnest, "Thank you, thank you!"

She was asked about playing in Rod Laver Arena and her feelings after the win. "It's a big court," she said. "Thank you very much. Today I'm very happy, and thank you very much."

The interviewer decided to press on, asking what she had changed between the second and third sets, but by then it was clear to at least one spectator that Suarez Navarro could use a little help.

"You won!" came the cry from the stands, and laughter rippled around the stadium.

[+] EnlargeCarla Suarez Navarro
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesBy vanquishing Venus Williams, Carla Suarez Navarro nets her biggest career win.
"I only play. I don't know what to say," she agreed.

Swinging out freely on both her forehand and her striking one-handed backhand, the 20-year-old took full advantage of the opening she was given by Williams' passive play and frequently ended the points on her own terms.

"You must be aggressive during all the match because, if not, she's going to take control of you," said Suarez Navarro, who won four games in a row after Williams served for the match at 5-3 in the third set.

Though this is clearly the biggest win of Suarez Navarro's career, it is not the best result of her career. She reached the quarterfinals of the French Open as a qualifier last year, defeating Amelie Mauresmo and Flavia Pennetta (who had beaten Venus Williams).

A Spaniard who hails from the Canary Islands and has trained in Barcelona, it's no surprise that her best performances have generally been on clay. But she looked at home on the Plexipave courts at Melbourne on Thursday night.

Though more than twice her winners against Williams came on the forehand side, it's usually her one-handed backhand -- a rarity on the women's tour -- that attracts attention. "The first time they gave me a racket and a ball, this is the way I started playing," she said at the French Open.

Not surprisingly, she has drawn inspiration from Justine Henin, who also hit a one-hander from the get-go. "She plays backhand with just one hand, and so do I," said Suarez Navarro. Their swings are a little different, however, with the Spaniard's more reminiscent of Amelie Mauresmo.

"What I loved in Justine Henin was the way she moved on the court, and this is what I admire most," she added. "It's a shame she decided to retire."

Still, the Spaniard is doing her bit to help fill the gap. And Venus Williams, as she watched some of those groundstrokes go whistling by, must have wondered if there was any gap at all on this cool Thursday evening at Melbourne Park.

Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.

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