Who's In, Who's Out
August 29, 2010 -- The obscurity of Caroline Wozniacki hit hard on Saturday when the AP released news about the Dane's third consecutive title at The Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven, adding the pronunciation of her name: (wohz-nee-AK-ee).
'Wohz' -- 'whoaz'
'Nee' -- 'knee'
'AK' -- the noise you make when you're about to choke.
'ee' -- a long eeee
Here was the #1 seed for the 2010 U. S. Open being introduced to readers as if her name had never been uttered. What does that say about her international appeal in the Big Apple during the ultra-extravaganza that is America's Grand Slam?
But you can't fault Caroline or 'Sunshine' or 'Caro' as her fans call her because the just-turned 20 year old has accumulated four titles this year -- more than any other player on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, winning the last two tournaments on the calendar in Montreal and New Haven just to give the suspiciously sweet appearing woman that extra boost on her way to Flushing Meadows. She has now won ten tour titles, none of them from a major.
Wozniacki's resume is a far cry from Serena Williams's 13 major singles titles and 12 major doubles titles. But the world's number one player won't be at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center this year due to a foot injury, which has been shrouded in mystery and misconception because no one's gotten the entire story, which is a shame for fans and the tournament.
However, Wozniacki doesn't spend much time comparing. She likes her Sunshine nickname because opponents get the impression she's cute, which she is. But make no mistake. She isn't cutesy on court.
Down a break in the third set semifinal match against Elena Dementieva in New Haven, Wozniacki took advantage of the Russian's nerves and cracked open the door. It was just enough space for Sunshine to peak through, pull out the win, and head for the final on Saturday where she took down Nadia Petrova.
No wonder Wozniacki loves New Haven crowds. "Yesterday I was down and they got me through it. I'd love to come back." Maybe she'll get the keys to the city next year.
Wozniacki's summer of tennis won her the U. S. Open Series title, too, along with Andy Murray on the men's side. If Caroline were to win the Open, she would be rewarded an extra $1 million in prize money. Add that to the payout from the USTA's coffer and her Stella McCartney Adidas fashion jacket would be stuffed with 1.7 million U. S. dollars.
Wozniacki was 15 when she turned pro, playing her first event on tour as a wildcard in Cincinnati. She lost to Patty Schnyder in the first round and, ironically, beat her in the first round at Rogers Cup this summer in Montreal. Wozniacki made the top 100 in 2007 and in 2008 scored her first three career titles, putting her in the top 50. It wasn't long before she reached the gateway to the top 10, punctuating her presence with her runner-up finish at last year's U. S. Open. She reached her current career high of #2 in March this year.
The curve that describes her ascendancy is steep. She melds well with the WTA Tour's arithmetic, too. She play lots of tournaments, and wins the rewards of lots of ranking points. That's how Dinara Safina paved her way to #1 in 2009. However with horrific back problems plaguing the Russian, she enters the U. S. Open this year under the radar and ranked #50.
Like most other number one hopefuls, Wozniacki has a state of the art website that touts her short history in the sport, her wishes to reach to pinnacle number one position, and tidbits about her outside life.
And like most smart tour players Wozniacki's residence is the Principality of Monte Carlo -- home of the international jet set that keenly know methods of conserving cash to retain their worldly wealth.
The media has agreed as a whole that Wozniacki probably won't win the U. S. Open, which puts the pressure out there for all to read and ponder. Some of it has to filter back to Wozniacki's team. Let's hope they're smart enough to keep her head aimed at tennis balls and not opinions.
The pundit picks are commonly Kim Clijsters or Maria Sharapova or a bust-em-up breakthrough from Belarusian beauty Victoria Azarenka. No Sunshine for the tennis press.
Sharapova is in Wozniacki's quarter of the draw where they could likely meet in the round of 16 -- the fourth round. Sharapova's serve is back and she has one Open crown in her closet. Read that 'she has experience closing out this major held in New York City in front of raucous fans who love their sport heroines.'
Other formidable foes sit in the same section. They all bite at the bit for their chance at glory: lefty Lucie Safarova (#26 seed) has fire power and spin; Aravane Rezai of France hits as hard as a man and won't back down; and Jarmila Groth -- Sharapova's first round opponent -- played back-to-back quarterfinals this year at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
It's a tough draw. But like all players, Wozniacki looks no farther than her first match, which is against wildcard American Chelsey Gullickson.
Here's Caroline on her relative position in the women's game, as posted on TennisForum.com: "When you really believe you belong there, that you can do the things you have to do, there's no pressure. You just go out there and play."
No matter what happens over the next two weeks, no one can take away the honor of her #1 seeding, no matter how she got it. Serena Williams is still number one in the rankings. But the American favorite won't have a say on the Open's outcome this year. Read that as a lackluster draw in all, or turn it upside down and take a look from another perspective.
It's wide open, meaning those who keep their heads about them when their scheduled match times are postponed due to rain, or their court assignment doesn't figure into their expectations, or they get a curveball question from a young news reporter, will have an equal chance to beat seven women and hoist the trophy on Super Saturday, September 11.
If Caroline Wozniacki happens to be that lucky and talented woman she will become the number one player in the world on the Sony Ericsson WTA rankings.