By Mark Poulose
KEY BISCAYNE - Carla Suarez Navarro had never made the semifinals at a WTA Premier Mandatory level event, yet after visiting Miami, the Spaniard is now in the final of what many consider the tour’s fifth major.
In the first match of Thursday’s day session, Suarez Navarro upset No. 9 Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-3, another incredible win for the 26-year-old playing the best tennis of her career. The win was the Spanish No. 1’s fourth victory over a seeded opponent in the tournament, getting her into the top 10 of next week’s rankings.
“[Being in the top 10] is so important for me,” she said. “I was practicing and I was working during all this year with my team for a moment like this.”
“Normally, all the tennis players want to be No. 1, but the first step I think is to be in the top 100 and top 50, then top 20, top 10, and you never know [after that],” Suarez Navarro said. “I want to be No. 1.”
Suarez Navarro, who entered Miami at a career high No. 12 ranking, has now defeated 9-seed Petkovic, 16-seed Venus Williams, 7-seed Agnieska Radwanska, and 22-seed Alize Cornet in the tournament.
The win against Petkovic improved her mark to 8-3 against top 20 opponents in 2015, and was the 16th win of her career against a top 10 player.
“Carla [is playing] really well this season, and really upped her game in the last year. It’s really nice to see,” said Petkovic.
Despite her short stature, Suarez Navarro authoritatively dictated play to the tall German, constantly outhitting Petkovic from the baseline. Suarez Navarro hit 17 winners to just 9 from Petkovic, and dominated on the German’s second serve. Petkovic won just 41% of points on her second offering, and was broken three times. She also hit 33 unforced errors.
“I was just pretty very stressed and I was pretty awful throughout the whole match. I tried to fight myself into the match, but there were just so many unforced errors on my side.”
Petkovic did not force a break point all match, and faced ten on her own serve. It was a dominating day by the Spaniard, who is crafting one of the finest seasons of her career.
Last week at Indian Wells, she reached her first career quarterfinal at the Premier Mandatory level, and has reached her first career semifinal and final at that level this week in Miami. Suarez Navarro, the top ranked Spanish woman, has two wins against top five opponents this season, and is guaranteed to face one in the final, as she will take on either world No. 1 Serena Williams or No. 3 Simona Halep.
Suarez Navarro has never beaten Serena in four tries, and has a 4-5 record against Halep.
It was Petkovic’s fifth appearance at Miami, and her second in the semifinals. Petkovic was making a bid to make her first final at the Premier Mandatory level since 2011 at Beijing, yet was unable to advance past the hard-hitting Spaniard. However, Petkovic leaves with fond memories of Miami.
“I love it here. I love Miami. I think the atmosphere is great,” Petkovic said. “The fans are very unique. It’s a huge pleasure to play here.”
Despite her performance, Petkovic was all class in defeat.
“I’m just happy for everything that comes [Suarez Navarro’s] way, because she has always been humble and a nice girl. She never changed,” she said. “I really appreciate that in players.”
Now, Suarez Navarro will face the winner between Serena Williams and Simona Halep, a matchup to be decided later tonight.