By Charles Bricker
SHE’S No 144 in singles, but she’s No 18 on the 2005 WTA Tour money list with US$427 430, and there’s a strong chance she’ll be the No 1 player in women’s doubles at the end of this year.
It’s hard to pass a court where little Cara Black is practising and not get slightly mesmerised by her volleying.There are those who would identify Rennae Stubbs of Australia as the best volleyer in women’s tennis. She’s up there on my list, too. But I’ll go with Black.
You want a volleying clinic, you watch Black — fast hands, amazing reflexes, great technique and, at 110 pounds, probably the smallest player in the game.
“My dad had a drill for us when we were young. You’d get very close to a wall and start volleying off the wall, counting down from 100, and he would see how long it would take us,” she said. “I think my record is 29 or 30 seconds.”
At 26, Cara long ago figured out that finishing 1997 as the No 1 junior in both singles and doubles wasn’t going to put her into the top 10 as a pro.
In fact, she has played only 29 singles matches this year and needed a gold exempt card to get into the Wimbledon singles.
Doubles, however, was no problem, and she and partner Liezel Huber won the title for the second year in a row – this time without the loss of a set, sweeping through elite singles players Svetlana Kuznetsova and Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-1 in the final.
“It’s definitely been tough to accept what’s happened in singles, but sometimes you have to go with what you’ve got that’s good,” she said last Friday after a one-hour training session with Stubbs.
The two quickly came together as a team after Huber tore medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in a World Team Tennis match right after Wimbledon.
Black and Stubbs were be seeded No 1 when the US Open doubles draw came out this week, with Black taking dead aim at catching Virginia Ruano Pascual for No 1 in the individual doubles rankings.In the shifting world of doubles partners, this is another perfect partnership for Black. Stubbs doesn’t play singles, which allows their schedules to coincide, and it links up two great volleyers as well as one of the funniest, loosest players in the game.
“We were at Stanford . . . and Rennae made some unbelievable points and finished it up with an incredible reflex volley,” Black said.”As we were walking back to the baseline, she said to the crowd: ‘That was pretty good, huh.’ We cracked up.”
She is one of three professionals produced by parents Don and Velia in their home country of Zimbabwe. Wayne and Byron also were exceptional doubles players, and Byron had a fine singles career.
Cara is engaged to her long-time training guru, Brett “Moose” Stephens, the Aussie who was Pete Sampras’ trainer late in his career. Stephens proposed the night of the Champions Dinner at Wimbledon.Her win at Wimbledon was her fourth grand slam doubles title, including two mixed with Wayne. – Sun-Sentinel.