Ok, so I admit it - I was wrong.
Those words aren't easy for me to type, but I underestimated Caroline Wozniacki. The Danish tennis player is the real deal and she showed it with her 6-3, 6-4 win over Maria Sharapova on Monday.
I've noticed a lot of people on message boards and even writers at tennis.com who don't seem to be giving Wozniacki her due. Wozniacki earned her win over Maria.
Sweet Caroline doesn't have the huge groundstrokes or play the ultra aggressive game that Maria does, but so what? Winning is all that matters. I've never been a big fan of Caroline's play, but after watching her against Maria a few things struck me.
First, she has a much better return game than I thought. She doesn't go for outright winners, but time and again she got the ball back in play and a lot of times she got it deep and pushed Maria back right off the bat. Second, she has a better serve than I thought. She has a little pop on it, just enough to keep the returners honest. Maria didn't return well, but I think some of that was due to Caroline's serving (she also mixed her serves up well).
Caroline does an amazing job of keeping the ball in play and I know defense can be a little boring sometimes, but what's the saying - defense wins championships. When needed Caroline can step up and hit a big ball, she has a lot of upside. Caroline has also handled the pressure of being No. 1 beautifully and I think she will win the U.S. Open and become the No. 1 player in the world.
I don't think she will win a ton of majors or dominate tennis, but I think she's a very solid player who win some majors and be a factor for quite a few years.
As far as Sharapova, she's still my favorite player. I still love her to death, after all we are going to get married someday (just kidding, kind of). However, it's the same old thing for her. I keep hearing all these so called-fans or experts making excuses for her. But, it's all hogwash.
Sharapova isn't a very good player right now (that's hurt to type, but it's true). She was seeded 14th and that's where she belongs. Everyone keeps bringing up her bad draws at the majors, but that's just an excuse. The bottom line is if you can't beat a Henin, a Serena Williams or a Wozniacki then you don't deserve to be at the top of the game. You have to beat the best to be the best.
Bottom line - Maria hasn't gotten it done. I've criticized Sweet Caroline because she hasn't beaten a top 5 player in 18 months, but the truth is neither has Maria. Maria hasn't been the same since her shoulder surgery and the truth is there's no guarantee she ever will be again. Shoulder surgeries are very serious and she's lucky she's able to still play at all (ask Jennifer Capriati). Maria has never been a great mover on the court and never will be. She needs her serve and her return game.
Her serve has shown signs of life, but is still too inconsistent. Against Sweet Caroline she went for too many big first serves and finished at 52 percent first serves - that won't get it done. Maria has a lot of points to defend in Tokyo coming up, and she could drop out of the top 20 if she doesn't do well there. That will make things even more difficult, but again she did this to herself. The only way to get back to the top is to start winning matches, and that includes against the top players no matter what round it comes in.
The good news for Sharapova is she doesn't have a lot of points to defend for the first half of next year. I hope she gets her game back, after she has more money to win for us.
As far as Sweet Caroline her game can continue to go up. It's time for people to give her credit for what she does and if she wins the U.S. Open, she will show that she truly is a champion. Everyone can still find ways to rip on her, but if she wins they can not rip that trophy away from her.