Caroline Wozniacki Swinging Big For Doha Tournament

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Caroline Wozniacki Swinging Big For Doha Tournament
© Natasha Peterson/Corleve

(October 25, 2010) Caroline Wozniacki has already come out swinging—and dancing— as the youngest woman in the top 10 aims to eradicate memories of her painful 2009 exit from the WTA Championships. The new World No. 1 will put her legs and swings to work tomorrow as she faces a tough test in the form of Elena Dementieva in her opening match of the WTA Championships.

The $4.55 million, round-robin tournament begins tomorrow. 

Wozniacki, Dementieva, French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and French Open finalist Samantha Stosur head the Maroon Group. 

Reigning US Open champion Kim Clijsters, who will make her first appearance since defeating Vera Zvonareva to collect her third US Open crown last month, two-time major finalist Zvonareva, former World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic and Victoria Azarenka, fresh off her run to the Kremlin Cup title in Moscow yesterday, form the White Group.

World No. 2 Zvonareva faces Jankovic in the opening White Group match. The pair have split 12 career meetings with Zvonareva winning the last three times they've played.

Wozniacki, who has won a WTA Tour-best six titles this season, joins Dinara Safina and Jankovic as the third woman in recent years to ascend to the World No. 1 rank without winning a Grand Slam championship. 

The 20-year-old Dane can take a step toward validating her prominent place at the top of tennis by winning the season-ending Championships, which wrap up their run in Doha this week before moving on to Istanbul for a three-year stay starting next October. 

Wozniacki is 4-3 lifetime against Dementieva, rallying to win both of their meetings this season in three-set struggles. Wozniacki edged Dementieva, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in the New Haven semifinals in August then defeated Dementieva, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the Tokyo final earlier this month. 

Wozniacki took time out from tennis and hung out with older brother Patrik in Copenhagen following her title triumph over Zvonareva in Beijing earlier this month. The avid boxing fan put on the gloves and hit the heavy bag to keep fit.

"After I got back from Asia, I took five days off from tennis. I think I really needed a break, so I just did some fitness work, mostly boxing with my trainer," Wozniacki said. "I still believe that boxing has helped me a lot with my tennis and I enjoy it tons. I started playing again a few days ago, and I’ve my eyes set on Doha. I’ve been there last year, and I’m really excited to go back again this year."

The purple court provided an appropriate color scheme for Caroline Wozniacki's bruising WTA Championships debut last season. Tormented by leg and stomach cramps, Wozniacki collapsed to the court at one point writhing in pain. She retired from her WTA Championships match against eventual champ Serena Williams after dropping the first set, 6-4, last season. 

Serena, who withdrew after re-tearing a tendon in her right foot, and older sister Venus, who pulled out with a lingering left knee injury, are not in Doha leaving Clijsters, the 2002 and 2003 champion, as the only former season-ending champion.

Wozniacki, who is 2-2 vs. Stosur and 1-2 against Schiavone, says she is completely healthy and ready to roll this week.

"Last year I had a great showing there, but had to retire in the semifinal due to a lingering injury. I’m 100 percent healthy now, so I’m looking forward to improving my result from last year," Wozniacki said. "I feel great, and eager to play, so it should be a good event. My parents and my coaches from the adidas training program will accompany me; it will be great to have my team there with me because much of my success is because of them."

Can Wozniacki, one of the premier defensive players in women's tennis, summon the necessary offense to make a run to the final? 

Wozniacki has worked on being more assertive with her forehand to complement her kill shot, her backhand down the line. She's won 25 of her last 26 matches, collecting tournament titles in four of her last five tournaments: Montreal, New Haven, Tokyo and Beijing.

The first Danish player to hold the World No. 1 ranking has learned something about pressure performance watching brother Patrik hit the dance floor in recent weeks.

"A few days ago I went to see my brother perform on (Denmark's) Dancing with the Stars. A few of my friends and family tagged along too, and it was exciting to see Patrik advance," Wozniacki said. "The show is very popular in Denmark, about 25 percent of the country’s population tuned in and Patrik is now in the final six! The show takes so much work, but he is one heck of a dancer, and I’m so proud of him." 

Now it's Patrik's turn to see if his sister can high-step her way into the Doha final.

The top two players in each group advance to Saturday's semifinals with the final set for Sunday. The tournament champion will collect $1.55 million. 

Clijsters will be making her first appearance since she beat Venus Williams and Zvonareva in succession to successfully defend the US Open title last month. Clijsters' 6-2, 6-1 conquest of Zvonareva was the most lopsided women's final since Chris Evert dismantled Evonne Goolagong, 6-3, 6-0, in the 1976 final and the shortest women's final since the USTA has timed title matches.

How will the near six-week layoff affect the fourth-ranked Belgian, who has been sidelined with a foot injury? 

Clijsters, who has posted a 36-6 record this season, has played fewer matches than any of the other seven competitors in Doha. However, she has a winning record against every member of the White Group. Clijsters is 6-2 against Zvonareva, but the second-ranked Russian has won two of their three meetings this year in the Wimbledon quarterfinals and the Montreal quarterfinals. Clijsters has won six of seven meetings with Jankovic and is 2-1 vs. Azarenka.

Tennis Channel will launch its live coverage starting at 10 a.m. Eastern time most days of the event, with prime-time encore replays underway at 8 p.m. Eastern time. Tennis Channel's on-air team features network play-by-play announcer and former player Leif Shiras and Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, who will again provide sideline reporting from Doha.  They will be joined by analysts Lindsay Davenport, who reached the No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles ranking during her playing days, and Corina Morariu, a former top-ranked doubles player in her own right.

If Clijsters, who did not play the WTA Championships last year, produces solid results in Doha she can surpass Serena for the season-ending No. 3 ranking.

Tennis Channel's 2010 WTA Championships Schedule
 

Date                            Time (ET)                   Event                         

Tuesday, Oct. 26           10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.          Round-Robin Action

Wednesday, Oct. 27      10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.          Round-Robin Action

Thursday, Oct. 28          10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.          Round-Robin Action

Friday, Oct. 29              10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.          Round-Robin Action

Saturday, Oct. 30           8 a.m.-9:30 a.m.            Doubles Semifinal

                                      10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.          Singles Semifinals, Doubles Semifinal

Sunday, Oct. 31            11 a.m.-1 p.m.               Doubles Final

                                    1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.            Singles Final

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