As the U.S. Open gets underway, no one has been talking much about Caroline Wozniacki, the current World No. 2.
She seems to make her biggest push of the season around this time of the year—the end of summer and the start of the U.S. Open.
The teenager from Denmark who finally made it to age 20 almost glided into Flushing Meadows, flying under the media radar.
Last year seeded No. 9, Wozniacki made it all the way to the finals of the U.S. Open, after stopping the American upstart, Melanie Oudin, dead in her tracks.
Oudin, a 17-year-old American, tore loose as her own one-woman wrecking crew against the top Russian players in the field, taking them out one at a time in thrilling fashion from the first round to the quarterfinals. The teenager thrilled the American public as she won time and again, coming back from a set down in most of her matches.
But Dane Wozniacki met Oudin head on, defeating her in the quarterfinals, ending her Cinderella run at the 2009 U.S. Open. In the semifinals, Wozniacki overcame Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, winning that match 6-3, 6-3 in 96 minutes.
That took Wozniacki into the finals of the U.S. Open, where she challenged Kim Clijsters for the crown. The Dane battled but lost that match to the Belgian 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 33 minutes.
Even though she did not win the tournament, Wozniacki found herself right at home in such a big event. She proved to herself that she was within striking distance of winning a major.
After the 2009 U.S. Open, Wozniacki quickly found herself ranked in the top five. During 2010, her ranking rose and fell with the seasons—but only slightly.
Wozniacki reached the finals at Indian Wells, which propelled her for the first time into the No. 2 ranking.
In April, the Dane won her seventh tour title overall at Ponte Verdra Beach, Florida as the top seed.
It was in Charleston, as the top seed once again, that the red-hot Wozniacki suffered a setback. She reached the semifinals, where she faced Russian Vera Zvonareva, but had to retire with a right ankle sprain. The injury slowed her progress and in her return to action, her movement seemed labored.
Wozniacki re-injured her right ankle in Warsaw where she had to retire in the quarterfinals against Jie Zheng. At the French Open the Dane fell to the eventual champion Francesca Schiavone in the quarterfinals. At Wimbledon, she lost in the fourth round.
Earlier this month, Wozniacki won her eighth overall tour singles title in Copenhagen as the top seed. She followed that by winning the Rogers Cup—extended because of rain to this past week. Wozniacki won her first Rogers Cup by defeating Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2, after dismissing Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semifinals.
Having recently risen to retake the No. 2 ranking on August 16, 2010, Wozniacki now finds herself as the No. 1 seed as the U.S. Open gets underway.
This is a nervous surprise. Wozniacki is seeded so highly because Serena Williams, the current WTA No. 1 ranked woman has withdrawn from the U.S. Open after cutting her foot on broken glass at a restaurant. The injury took place in July and Williams finds herself unable to compete.
Kim Clijsters will be seeded No. 2, with Venus Williams No. 3, and Serb Jelena Jankovic coming in as the No. 4 seed.
With the draws to be announced on Thursday, there seems to be no clear cut front runner now that Serena Williams has withdrawn from the field. Venus Williams has been out of action, fighting knee problems during the hard court tune-ups. That, plus the fact that Venus has not won the U.S. Open Championship since 2001, nor been much of a factor at the Open for the past few years.
Most will predict that Kim Clijsters, last year’s champion, will be favored to win her third U.S. Open title. Clijsters has won three WTA tournaments this year and seems to be the most ready to repeat this year.
The outlook for any player seeded No. 1 is not good. In the past 10 years, the No. 1 seed has won the U.S. Open only twice. Serena Williams did it in 2002 and Justine Henin accomplished the feat in 2007—otherwise, the No. 1 seed has failed to win the tournament. In the end, being the top seed only makes you a bigger target.
Yet despite the fact that she is seeded No. 1, Wozniacki will remain off everybody’s radar because of her style of play.
Known primarily as a counter-puncher, a defensive specialist, Wozniacki will definitely have to step it up at the Open to win this event. She will need to be more aggressive and initiate some action.
Since 2009, Wozniacki has improved her serve and her forehand, while her backhand remains her best weapon, alongside her scrambling ability––allowing her to get more balls back into play on her opponent’s side of the net. One thing the Dane does not lack is courage and the will to win. She is mentally tough.
Now at age 20, Wozniacki is within a whisper of being the No. 1 ranked woman in the world. All she must do is win both the tournament this week in New Haven, plus the U.S. Open to surpass Serena Williams as the No. 1 player. Pretty tall order all the way around for anyone.
So far, playing in New Haven, Wozniacki has advanced into the quarterfinals after defeating Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-1. Her next opponent will be Italian Flavia Penneta. After her splendid run through the North American hard court season, Wozniacki should be brimming with confidence. The question is, will her legs last after so much tennis?
Without Serena Williams in the mix, so far the oddsmakers like the Dane’s chances at the U.S. Open. The wannabe champion of the Open just might be one of the newer rising stars, some of whom feel they have paid their dues—among them 20-year-old Wozniacki.
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