The only thing more disturbing than Caroline Wozniacki's first-round loss at the 2013 Madrid Open is the fact that defeats like that one hardly come as a shock nowadays.
The world's 10th-ranked female tennis player has taken a plunge from the No. 1 spot she held down not long ago and is in danger of becoming the poster child for overrated tennis stars who peaked far too soon.
It looked as if Wozniacki would be battling for Grand Slam titles for years to come after she made a run to the U.S. Open final in 2009, eventually losing to Kim Clijsters in straight sets.
Fast-forward nearly four years and the tennis world is still waiting for Wozniacki to return to a Grand Slam final.
Now, what looked like a down year in 2012 (the worst of her career in terms of wins and titles) has become a trend in 2013, as the Danish star has not only yet to reach her full potential, but has also actually begun to regress.
Wozniacki lost quickly in straight sets to Yaroslava Shvedova in the opening round at Madrid this week, winning just six games against the world No. 36. Before that, the 22-year-old lost in the first round in Stuttgart last month to world No. 23 Carla Suarez-Navarro, bowing out in straight sets as well.
After winning 60-plus singles matches each year from 2009 through 2011, Wozniacki has fallen off dramatically. Through the first four-and-a-half months of the year, she is just 16-10 in singles play and has yet to win a single tournament.
In by far her best performance this year, Wozniacki reached the final at Indian Wells last March. But she came unglued there, losing to Maria Sharapova in straight sets of 6-2 apiece.
One step forward, two steps back.
How many titles will Caroline Wozniacki win before the end of 2013?
Based on what we've seen from Wozniacki since her last WTA Premier win at Indian Wells in 2011, many tennis fans would never guess that she actually played in the Madrid final way back in 2009.
Even worse news for Wozniacki at this point in the season (the clay-court campaign), it's been two years since she last won a clay-court event, and her recent success rate at the French Open is anything but encouraging heading into the year's second Grand Slam event.
She's never been further than the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and has bowed out in the third round in each of the past two years.
With that in mind, Wozniacki's early exit from the Madrid Open this May highlights a disappointing trend in her game. It's not about breaking through at a major tournament anymore. The task now is to find some consistency and develop much-needed confidence.
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