Martina Navratilova believes Naomi Osaka has the ability to transfer her hard court prowess to clay and grass.
Japan’s world number two has picked up two titles each at the Australian Open and US Open, but has never got past the third round of either the French Open or Wimbledon.
She was rarely troubled on her way to victory in Melbourne last month and, with the clay courts of Roland Garros fast approaching, followed by the grass court swing, the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion believes the playing field is levelling off across all surfaces.
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“The potential is there, no doubt about it,” Navratilova told Tennis Now.
The surfaces are much more similar than they used to be. Grass is slower, clay is faster, the balls are faster. You don't have to make nearly as much of an adjustment as you used to.
“There's no doubt that she has the game to win both on the clay and the grass.
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“I don't see Naomi being that confident with her sliding, but then Andre Agassi won the French Open without sliding. It can be done.
“It just makes life easier when you slide and you're comfortable with timing with your strokes.
“I think she's still learning when to pull the trigger on the clay.”
Martina Navratilova won nine Wimbledon singles titles
Image credit: Getty Images
If there is a little bit of doubt about Osaka’s mobility on the red courts of Paris, Navratilova is more confident about her ability to win titles at Wimbledon. It is where the Czechoslovakia-born American achieved her best success during her playing career, claiming nine ladies’ singles trophies and 11 doubles titles across women’s and mixed.
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“There is no reason for her not to dominate on grass, as well”, said Navratilova.
“The kick serve is great for grass. It's magnified by bad bounces, the kick. Her big shots pay off better on grass than the other surfaces, other than maybe a fast court like was in Australia this year.
The sky's the limit, it's just a matter of putting in the time and getting more instinctual on the surface, that's all.
“She just needs the mileage on it. Game-wise there's not that much of an adjustment to make.”
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