Monday, January 10, 2011
Bagging a maiden grand slam title is Caroline Wozniacki's No.1 priority.
It says much about Caroline Wozniacki's status as women's world No.1 that, upon gaining membership of that exclusive club, she has immediately set about separating herself from her association with another: that of players to have reached the Women's Tennis Association top ranking but never prevailed at a grand slam event.
Aside from Wozniacki, who became the 20th women's No.1 last October, there are only two others to hold the dubious title, Serbia's Jelena Jankovic and the Russian Dinara Safina. Select company indeed, but an affiliation the 20-year-old Dane is desperate to rid herself of quickly.
The top seed at the Medibank International, she has come close before, reaching the final of the 2009 US Open and then the past four in New York in September, and believes she is ready to complete the task next time she ventures into the second week of a major.
''There's only one winner, there's 128 playing in the main draw. It's not easy,'' said Wozniacki, who has a first-round bye at Sydney Olympic Park, and plays the winner of Russia's Maria Kirilenko and Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova tomorrow. ''And every time I've been missing something to just take the last step. I've lost in the finals and semi-finals of the grand slams before but hopefully I will be able to take the next step sooner rather than later.''
If Wozniacki does take the leap and wins the upcoming Australian Open, it will be a result sure to please the WTA marketing types. She is the blessed new face of women's tennis and, like Maria Sharapova before her, is poised to be a beneficiary of her appearance as well as her unquestionable ability with a racquet. The endorsements are already rolling in thick and fast.
The daughter of Polish immigrants - her father Piotr played professional football and her mother represented Poland in volleyball - Wozniacki has arrived in Sydney after playing exhibition matches in Thailand, against Kim Clijsters, and in Hong Kong. With such events come the perks of being world No.1.
''We did a lot of things [in Thailand]. We were riding an elephant, we saw the shows … I lost to an elephant at bowling, I'm not too proud of that,'' she said. ''The elephant actually got a strike whereas I only hit four or five cones. But not too many people can say they've lost to an elephant at bowling!
''We had a great time in Thailand. We saw a snake show, I held a large snake. I was afraid of it a little bit but held myself together. I held this baby tiger as well which was very good.''
After runs-in like that you, would imagine nothing much should faze Wozniacki in Sydney this week. Her ascension to the top of the women's list was built on her WTA-leading six tournament victories last year. A grand slam she does not yet have in her possession but she is the most consistent performer on tour, even if the speed of her rise to No.1 caught her by surprise.
''It came really fast. I didn't expect it to come that fast,'' she said. ''But on the other hand, I've always had the belief in myself and the belief it was going to be possible. It's always been a dream for me, a goal that I've been working towards since I was little. To reach that goal was an incredible feeling - I'll try to keep it as long as possible.''
Her elevated standing does come with its inevitable concessions. Wozniacki realises she has a target on her back; she recalls well being an up-and-coming player trying to upset more-fancied opponents. They are all after her now.
''They don't feel any pressure … they can just go out and play their best,'' she said. ''If they win it's fantastic; if they lose it's OK, they've lost to the No.1 player in the world. I'm still young, and it's only a few years back when I started on the tour. I remember winning a match against a top-50 player was big for me.''
EDIT - This is news I have only just heard but Vera Zvonerava had destroyed Caroline in Hong Kong 6-1 6-0.