Tennis

Suarez Navarro credits Henin for comeback

Carla Suarez Navarro used the only one-handed backhand left in the women's draw to mighty effect yesterday as she reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the third time.

The Spanish world No. 39 came from a set and 4-1 down to register a 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 win over Anett Kontaveit with a delightful display of the old-school tennis she said is inspired by former No. 1 Justine Henin.

The Belgian was renowned for having one of the greatest backhands in the game.

Suarez Navarro, who reached the Australian Open last eight in 2009 and two years ago, was asked how much of an influence Henin had been.

"A lot because we don't have too many players with one-handed backhands," she said.

"I saw a lot of matches from her. Yeah, she was one of my favourite players when I grew up."

Two breaks down in the second set, the 29-year-old used all her experience, patience and court craft to grind her way back against a nervous Kontaveit who was trying to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

"Maybe we can open a little bit more the court with the angle," said Navarro of being one of the last of a dying breed of single-handed players.

Kontaveit failed to cope with the problems created by Suarez Navarro's clever shot-making, changes of pace and spin.

The Estonian's power game had brought 22 winners in a dominant opening set but unravelled in a dramatic second set.

The 32nd seed had one more chance to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third, but again collapsed with the end line in sight.

Instead it was the old-style one-handed play of Suarez Navarro that fashioned a famous comeback to put her into a third quarter-final at Melbourne.

Her reward is a clash with an old foe - world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki. Suarez Navarro said of Wozniacki: "Will be really tough. She's fighting every ball."

Wozniacki leads their head-to-head record at 5-2. Both of Suarez Navarro's wins have come on clay. - AFP

Tennis