At first glance the 7-5 6-4 defeat that Naomi Broady inflicted on Ana Ivanovic in Auckland is a major shock. In reality though, the Brit has been constructing a unique game over the past twelve months and has finally had an opportunity to let it flourish on the big stage.
Whilst it didn’t necessarily show in terms of her rankings, 2015 was a major breakthrough year for the British number three. Her successful results were rather limited to just August and September but it was a self-confessed shift in mentality which seems to have taken Broady to another level.
In an interview with Courtney Nguyen in September, Broady said: “I think the biggest thing that’s changed is my mentality and how i’m approaching my matches now.
“I’m going for the Karlovic approach, accepting that I can out-serve anyone if I’m serving well enough on the day.”
The “Karlovic approach”, as Broady described it, is not something seen all that regularly in the WTA. We rarely hear of women who base their game solely around the serve. Sabine Lisicki has a fast yet wildly inconsistent serve. Serena Williams has a massive serve but hardly bases her game around it. Karolina Pliskova may be the only successful exception after an excellent 2015.
So has Naomi Broady found a gap in the market? It says a lot about the effectiveness of her serve when you consider that, even though she played just eleven main draw WTA matches last year, she made it into the end-of-year-list for ‘most aces in a match’ coming fourth after shooting 19 aces in a grueling three-set encounter with Jarmila Gadjosova.
Against Ivanovic she served 14 aces in just two sets. Those are world class statistics against anyone, especially a former Grand Slam champion. Once again though, these serving statistics owe plenty to this mentality shift that Broady spoke about. When asked at what point she realised that it was her best shot she replied:
“I’ve literally only just realized that in the last few months, which is the most ridiculous thing if you look at my statistics. How many aces I always hit, how much respect the other girls give my serve. I totally didn’t acknowledge it at all.
“Finally this year something clicked in my brain and I’m going for the Karlovic approach. This is my new thing. I’m not serving 40 aces in a match just yet, but that’s the plan.”
The confidence which is clearly radiating from the mentality shift is not just evident in her serving though. There has been a marked improvement in both the consistency and aggression of her ground-strokes as well, particularly her backhand in the last 6 months. The unorthodox one-handed stroke has perhaps been her most significant hindrance over the years but it seems to have developed into a more stable and dependable shot.
So what should we expect from Naomi Broady in 2016? Well she has set the bar pretty high with this remarkable victory over Ivanovic. On that evidence surely top #100 is only around the corner. There is no reason she cannot go significantly higher though. She has watched her compatriot Johanna Konta shoot up the rankings last year and will be thinking if she can do it, then why can’t I?
Her next challenge will be defeating her second round opponent, Jelena Ostapenko, who ended her marvellous run in Washington back in September last year. If she can avenge the 6-4 6-2 defeat last year she will have demonstrated just how far she has come in the last six months. Watch this space, because you will be hearing a lot more from Naomi Broady this year.