Caroline Wozniacki Proves Yet Again Why She Is the No. 1 Player
In a week where many of the top women rested from tournament play and prepared themselves for the clay season, world No. 1. Caroline Wozniacki was on the clay court and once again defied her skeptics and added another title to her already blistering resume.
The 20-year-old Dane beat Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-3 and made 26 winners to go with just 10 unforced errors in the Charleston final.
Those are impressive stats. But what is perhaps even more impressive is the fact that she even played after playing three gruelling hard-court tournaments after the Australian Open.
Apparently, Charleston asked her to join as they were short on top names and she agreed.
Last year, she injured her ankle in the Charleston semis, and her entire clay and grass season were affected by it. This year, she battled through some close matches and came out on top every time it looked as if she was down.
She did it against Yanina Wickmayer and was heralded by former Wimbledon champ Virginia Wade for being able to turn in a winning mode and make her opponents insecure of their own game.
What Wozniacki does well is she is solid, able to play better defence that almost any woman on tour and lets the other player hit that extra winner time and time again.
She has the mentality of a winner and has added quite a bit of aggression to her game. The recent final with 26 winners to 10 errors tells that story.
Moreover, she is better than most at varying her game according to her opponent. When aggression is needed, she has that and will happily use it as we saw a few tournaments back when she had to make her matches short as she was playing ill. We saw it again against Jelena Jankovic, when Wozniacki knew she had to take the game to her in order to win it.
Her forehand used to be a liability that opponents would go after, but they can't do that anymore. While not yet being a world class forehand, she does strikes winners with it now and it rarely breaks down.
Her results for the 2011 campaign has so far earned her three titles, a runner-up, a semifinal in the Australian Open where she fell after holding match points against Na Li, a fourth round loss in Indian Wells and a lost opening match in Sydney, her first tournament of the year.
Does it get much better than that?
Well, if you're Novak Djokovic, then yes. Both not if you are playing on the WTA.
Meanwhile, her closest rival in the ranking, Belgian Kim Clijsters, has injured herself while dancing at her brother's wedding. She is expected to be sidelined until the French Open and is not even sure to be ready for that.
Clijsters is already 1,800 points behind Wozniacki, who towers the ranking with almost 10,000 points. The second-closest rival, Vera Zvonoreva is another 300 points back.
Neither Wozniacki, Zvonoreva or Clijsters had good clay seasons last year, so they were all expected to pick up points. With Clijsters sidelined, the top ranking seems to have narrowed to a two-women race with Caroline in the driver's seat.
Unless Zvonareva pulls some really big results on her least-favoured surface and Wozniacki suddenly starts losing early (last six tournaments: semi, win, final, win, fourth round, win), Wozniacki is bound to stay No. 1. until after the French Open.
Caroline Wozniacki has been No. 1 for 27 weeks now, which puts her at No. 10 on the list of players who've been No. 1. the longest. All the players ahead of her are multiple slam winners. And aside from No. 9 Amélie Mauresmo at 39 weeks and No. 8 Lindsay Davenport, they are all 5-plus slam winners.
Do we really imagine Wozniacki will stay the only slamless person in this company?
Wozniacki's critics like to point out that you can't be a true No. 1. without winning a slam. They also like to point out that she has losing records to quite a few of the other top players and has never beaten the Williams sisters, Clijsters or Justine Henin.
But the latter really begs this point. Clijsters is the only one she has met after her game matured and after she made the No. 1. She lost to her in three sets at the Tour Finals and 10-8 in the third set super-tiebreak at an exhibition match.
Do we really expect a teenager to beat 7-plus slam winners like the Williams sisters and Henin and hold it against her when she merely manages to make the matches close?
Until this spring, she was also down 0-4 against Jelena Jankovic. Now she is 2-4. Until the US Open, she was down 0-2 against Maria Sharapova. Now she is 2-2.
The improvements are evident and there to see for all, yet the focus keeps being on that elusive Slam.
But let's consider that she has only played two Slam tournaments as a non-teenager and only two Slam tournaments as the No. 1 seed. Kim Clijsters won both and deservingly so.
The slam will come. It is no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when. After all, Kim Clijsters went two years from being No. 1 to winning her first slam, losing a few finals in the process.
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