Is Wozniacki a worthy number one?
Worthy number one or just a sad reflection of the way women’s tennis has evolved into a game of low-risk baseline slugging?
That is the question being asked after Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki was confirmed as the new world number one.
Is she worthy? Well, the WTA rankings system would suggest that she is — just as Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina were when they rose to the top without winning the game’s top prizes.
Over the course of the year the 20-year-old has proved the most consistent performer on Tour and the best-placed to benefit from the injury which has sidelined 13-times grand slam singles champion Serena Williams since she won Wimbledon.
Wozniacki claimed her fifth title of the year in Tokyo last week, the first player to achieve that feat since Justine Henin won 10 in 2007. Yet she did not even reach the final of a grand slam this year and has managed that just once, her run to last year’s U.S. Open final where she lost to Kim Clijsters.
There is no denying that Wozniacki is one of the toughest players on Tour and it would be churlish to deny her place at the top of the pile as on current form she is the best there is.
Just like Safina and Jankovic before her, she will not be given due praise for the number one ranking because of the glaring omissions on her CV.
She will ultimately be judged on whether she can grab the big trophies in Melbourne, Roland Garros, Wimbledon or Flushing Meadows and all eyes will be on her next year.
However, it is not her fault that Williams has been sidelined and WTA chief executive Stacey Allaster quickly moved to congratulate Wozniacki on reaching the pinnacle.
“It’s not surprising that Caroline’s incredible athleticism, discipline, dedication to training, and razor sharp focus have gotten her to world No.1,” she said in a WTA statement.
Worthy words indeed. But one that was missing was flair. Wozniacki is the product of the production line of baseline belters that has now taken over the women’s game.
The Wozniackis of this world play the percentages, and play them to devastating effect. Only when they face Serena Williams, and Venus when in the mood, players capable of hitting serves through brick walls, do they come unstuck.
With Serena’s return delayed after cutting her foot and Belgian Henin, a player still capable of tangling the baseliners in her web of spin, sidelined through injury the women’s game lacks gloss at the moment.
While Wozniacki’s rise will raise eyebrows, probably none more so that in the Williams’ household where the shelves are buckling under grand slam silverware, she does have fans.
Brad Gilbert, former coach to Andre Agassi and Andy Murray, to name but a few, was busy tweeting his admiration for the 20th woman to hit the top since rankings were introduced.
“She’s a great kid, has an excellent attitude and puts in the hard yards,” the American said. “The WTA should be elated to have a player like her. Tennis is about winning, not just hitting winners. Appreciate what she is rather than what she isn’t.”
PHOTO: Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark posses with the women’s world number one trophy after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in their third round match at the China Open in Beijing October 7, 2010. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic