Wimbledon 2009: Caroline The Chameleon

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Wimbledon 2009: Caroline The Chameleon
(Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

Bradypodion taeniabronchum, or commonly known as Smith's Dwarf Chameleon, is a master of disguise. 

The South African native lizard can use its ability to change colors to blend in with its surrounding scenery. Not a bad ability to have when faced with a cunning adversary. 

Adaptation.

If you check Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, you would find Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki listed under a related form for chameleon.

The 18-year-old Dane is riding high, coming off her second title of the season last week at Eastbourne. For Caroline, Wimbledon will always hold a special place in her heart, as she won the Junior crown in 2006 at age 15.

There's only so much preparation a player can do when they see a 38-year-old who hasn't played in the Wimbledon main draw since 1996 lined up against them.

Meet the blast from the past, at five feet, four inches from Kyoto, Japan, Kimiko Date-Krumm!

If anyone was out there scrambling to check to see if their calendars were right, it still is 2009. But it's understandable to think otherwise. Kimiko, seeded No. 12, was a semifinalist in 1996, where she lost to eventual champion Steffi Graf

At the time, Caroline was five years old and none of her family members wanted to play tennis with her because she was so horrific.

But that was then and this is now. Day Two at Wimbledon is a completely perfect day, and there's just no chance Caroline will lose this match. It's just a nice tune-up and it's always good to face a wily old veteran.

The match began in ridiculously routine fashion—Caroline looked right at home and Kimiko looked like she hadn't played on the lawns in, who knows, 13 years?

A hold of serve and break by the Blonde Bomber, yawn. 2-0.

But Kimiko continued to force-feed ancient grass tactics into the match. She had all the tricks. A vicious, two-handed slice backhand that looked very much like she was wielding a Katana.

Forehand slicing serve returns back into the middle of the court. And rushing the net at any slight opportunity.

All of a sudden, the match swings back to Japan.

Caroline falls in three consecutive games, committing far too many unforced errors and looking flat out indecisive at times. Piotr was no happy camper as she fell behind 2-3.

"OK, up the line! No, why'd I go cross court!?! Aiee! Stupid racquet. Now he's giving me the glare. Just BREATH. Why can't I wear light blue? That was my lucky outfit. This woman pushes e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!"

There are unorthodox players, and then there is Kimiko Date-Krumm. Her forehand is a slightly upgraded stroke from what you expect to see at a local country club.

But Caroline showed a slight glimmer of hope as she jumped back out on top, 4-3. Let the see-saw set continue.

She was hardly comfortable on court though. Kimiko did an excellent job of obliterating whatever rhythm the match had. 

Now at 5-5, Kimiko had the chance to put Caroline on the ropes again, after blowing a chance at 5-4.  At 0-30, she fired an awkward serve off the outside of her racquet and Caroline swings right through the air of Court 2. 

All of a sudden, it's game and first set to Date-Krumm, 7-5.

For the young Dane, the second set didn't start out too much better either. Date-Krumm held serve to begin, broke Caroline, then exchange breaks to go up 3-1.

Although Caroline's play had improved, her luck had not. Multiple net-cord bounces on crucial points went to the Japanese woman.

Then comes the adaptation and Caroline the Chameleon. 

As if she instantly figured out how to attack the veteran's backspin, rush-the-net gameplay. Kamiko suddenly had no idea how to hold serve, Caroline began making all of the right passing shots, and her serve began generating a bushel of free points.

And very quickly, the score changed from 3-1 in favor of Date-Krumm to 5-3 in favor of Caroline. 

Now, Date-Krumm needed to hold serve to stay in the match, something she had done just once in the set. Fatigue was also setting in for the 38-year-old, trying to keep pace with the young Dane. 

A bang-bang play at the net with two break points lead to the set for Caroline.

"Come ON, over there! YES! She missed one! That deserves a fist pump. I should apologize for finally getting a net-cord bounce too. Why is he still giving me that look? I just won the set! Ahh. She needs a comfort break. I'll just go back out and practice a few swings."

The third set must have just flown by. Wozniacki was dominating now.

Apart from the injury timeout for Kimiko, the amount of actual play in the set was minimal. She quickly ran to a 6-1 final set victory to seal the match.

A serve out wide packaged it up, as Kimiko pulled a forehand wide.

"Woo, that was tough. I think he actually cheered for me now!"

Caroline will now face Russian Maria Kirilenko in round two.

 

Caroline Match Statistics

  • Aces: 4
  • Double Faults: 2
  • Winners: 25
  • Unforced Errors: 22
  • Break Points Saved: 4 of 9
  • Break Points Won: 8 of 12

Match Notes

Caroline is 1-0 lifetime against Maria Kirilenko, with the only victory coming at Indian Wells in 2008. With 43 victories, Caroline has tallied the most wins of any top WTA player in 2009.

Down a set and 3-1 in the second, Caroline won 11 of the next 12 games to win the match. 

"It's amazing that she's still coming back and playing at this level. I think that's great, and she's in such good shape. I'm really impressed." said Caroline of Kimiko. "I could have been out today."

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