No longer No. 1, Wozniacki can start taking risks

January 24, 2012

Finally, the most worn-out debate in women’s tennis can stop after Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki’s defeat in the Australian Open quarter-finals by Kim Clijsters means she will no longer be No.1 in the rankings.

Ever since she first topped the rankings in October 2010, Wozniacki’s lack of a grand slam title has prompted questions about her suitability for the lofty position. Even this week former great Martina Navratilova said Wozniacki’s status was more to do with the limitations of the ranking system which rewards her grinding consistency rather than results at grand slams.

It is hardly Wozniacki’s fault that she found herself as No.1 for virtually all of the past year, after all she does not make the rules, but falling off her perch might just be a blessing in disguise for the Dane as the focus shifts elsewhere.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka, still seeking a first major, could all begin next week as the new No.1 and while Wozniacki confidently predicts that she will regain it soon, she can now concentrate on filling in the glaring gap in her CV without the weekly round of questions over her status.

Wozniacki’s game is naturally defensive and while her level rarely drops, she has so far been unable to add the kind of firepower to her game that can make the difference in the latter stages of the slams when she invariably crosses paths with the big hitters.

Still largely coached by her father Piotr, Wozniacki’s game has stagnated despite her No.1 ranking and wins against top-10 players over the past year have been few and far between. In that time Kvitova and Azarenka, who contested the WTA Tour Finals last October, have both made significant improvements.

Belrussian Azarenka has been in dominant form in Australia, roaring into the semi-finals where she will play four-times major winner Clijsters while world number two Kvitova is being tipped as favourite for the title after reaching the quarter-finals where she will face Italy’s Sara Errani on Wednesday.

Wozniacki will return to doing what she does best after the Australian Open, producing solid numbers on regular Tour events, but if she is to arrive at the French Open with any hope of winning the title she will have to start taking some risks.

It may mean a few surprise defeats along the way, but if she is to seriously challenge Azarenka, Kvitova, Sharapova and Serena Williams this year for major silverware, it would be a sacrifice worth making. After all, when players hang up their rackets it is the amount of Ws in the Grand slam column that create their legacy, not dazzling smiles, ranking points or dollars in the bank.

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