Caroline Wozniacki has finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together for her best chances at winning a grand slam, but will she do it?
Wozniacki is into the quarterfinals at the French, but she’s been here before, in 2010, and then lost. 2010 was one of the years she ended as No. 1, where she reigned for 67 weeks, without a single grand slam title to go along with it. The Dane is just outside the Top 10, ranked No. 12, but seems to have found the confidence she’s been lacking for a while.
"I have felt good all year," she told the WTA about her progress this year. "I have been playing well and confidently. I felt pretty good going into the tournament. Obviously it's just kind of clicking this week. Hopefully I can keep going this way."
Ranked as low as 74 last year and No. 20 at the beginning of this year, the 26 year-old has hit her stride all year long, progressing deep into many tournaments and making three significant finals at Doha, Dubai, and most impressively, the Miami Masters 1000 event. She’s also made the quarterfinals at Aukland, Sydney, and Indian Wells. Her momentum hasn’t translated as well to the clay period, despite making it to the quarters in Charleston at the beginning of the season. That is, until now, going into her quarterfinal match at the French, where she’s been at peak performance. Wozniacki is playing with assurance, is making the most of her chances, and is going for the biggest breakthrough there is, to win that elusive first grand slam.
"Winning a Grand Slam is the only thing left on my resume, and that's what I'm working for," Wozniacki said after her win over Svetlana Kuznetsova on Sunday.
She’s also playing healthy and doesn’t seem to be plagued by the back problem that caused her to withdraw from Strasbourg just before the French.
"At this point, I think it's important for me to try and get ready for the French Open and be 100% for that,” said Wozniacki a few weeks ago.
The Dane may also have a bit of luck on her side. It doesn’t hurt that both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are both out, two players who she has a losing record against. There’s another interesting statistic that comes with the Kuznetsova win: according to Richard Pagliaro at Tennisnow, “nine times the woman who has beaten Kuznetsova has gone on to reach the French Open final.”
Wozniacki has matured more and is in a better place to close the matches she needs to. She’s fighting through challenges with belief.
“It doesn't matter if I feel like I'm comfortable or uncomfortable on the clay,” Wozniacki said, analyzing her chances. “Yes, it's a surface where it has been very much up and down for me throughout my career. But at the end of the day I'm just here to do my job – to try and win.”
Getting ready to turn 27 next month, the Danish player hasn’t been afraid to change strategies at this stage in her career. She’s been mixing up her game and adding new shots, especially a very effective drop shot. Looking at how Roger Federer added a lethal backhand at the age of 35, the players who tend to stay in the game as they get older, are the ones who are flexible about continuing to improve.
“I have been working on a lot of things,” she said after the fourth round win. “It's one thing that, early in my career, I would get told off. But I guess they have more faith in me now, so now they’re like, ‘We should try these drop shots and see how they work.’ They have been working so far.”
The 11th seed is also playing with a bit more pep in her step, perhaps having something to do with new NBA boyfriend, San Antonio Spurs’ David Lee cheering her on in the stands? A happy homelife is a happy life.
“If everything is calm and good in life, it makes it much easier to focus on the court. I have great support. I have great people with me here. It’s nice to know that they have my back no matter what.”
Whatever the main reason is - or probably a combination of all of them - there will be a new women’s champion at the French Open, and that winner might just be Caroline Wozniacki this time. Wouldn’t that be a coup?