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Wozniacki and Prying a Simian Off Her Back

January 24th, 2018 · No Comments · Tennis

Caroline Wozniacki is a veteran tennis player with lots of fans and  accomplishments.

As far as I can tell, she has always been polite, honest and modest, which we like in our athletes (and increasingly do not get).

Wozniacki is not the sort of athlete who complains about fan behavior or who snaps at journalists after a defeat. I have no recollection of her making excuses for this, that or the other. She goes out and plays.

She usually wins.

Wozniacki spent 67 weeks as women’s world No. 1, earlier in this decade. She had a bit of a dip in 2012/13 (back to that in a moment) but now is back near the top of the heap; she was the No. 2 seed at the Australian Open and ended the 2017 season ranked No. 3 in the world.

But there remains a major omission on her resume that probably should not broached as often as it is, in the context of all she has done, but there it is, and everyone paying any attention to tennis knows about it.

She has never won a major championship.

She is 0-for-the-Grand Slams.

A status she can change in Melbourne on Saturday.

Wozniacki has marched into the final of the Australian Open having won 12 of 14 sets.

Waiting for her in the final is the current world No. 1, Simona Halep of Romania. Halep also has won 12 of 14 sets, but she has been stretched in the third set twice — needing 16 third-set games to dispose of Angelique Kerber and, last week, requiring 28 third-set games to oust the tiny American, Lauren Davis.

Halep, then, has played 149 games in two weeks, while Wozniacki has played only 129.

Wozniacki also holds a 4-2 head-to-head advantage and has won the past three meetings, including the most recent, in Singapore last year.

Halep, too, is toting the same burden as is Wozniacki; the current world No. 1 has never won a major championship. She is 0-2 in majors, both on the clay of Roland Garros.

(Wozniacki is 27, stands 5-10 and weighs 138 pounds. Halep is 26, 5-6 and 132. Both women are described as “aggressive defenders”.)

Wozniacki also is 0-2 in majors, both on the hard courts of the U.S. Open, with her most recent defeat coming in 2014.

Wozniacki actually has given a better accounting of herself than has Halep, in her major finals — she lost to the imposing Kim Klijsters in the 2009 U.S. Open and lost to Serena Williams in the 2014 edition of same. No shame there.

Halep, meanwhile, has twice lost in three sets — to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and, shockingly, to Jelena Ostapenko after holding a lead of a set and 3-0, in the 2017 French final.

In Saturday’s final, I think we need to pull for Wozniacki, whose “never won a major” reputation has been a millstone around her neck since she first got to No. 1, in 2010.

Overall, she has 67 weeks at No. 1, putting her ninth on the all-time list — and No. 1 on the “most weeks without winning a major” list. (And it’s not close; No. 2 on that list is Dinara Safina, with 26 weeks at No. 1.)

Halep has only 16 weeks of being at the top spot.

Also, we can take into account a difficult time in Wozniacki’s life — her very public romance with golfer Rory McIlroy.

They were an item from 2011 until May of 2014.

She announced their engagement via Facebook on January 1, 2014 … and McIlroy announced their breakup on May 21 of that year, saying: “The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realize that I wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails.”

Oh, dear.

Wozniacki’s tennis improved, after bottoming at at No. 74 in 2016, but not until the past few months did she climb back to the top two or three of tennis. Which got fans talking about the “can she win a major?” issue again.

Hers has been a career of lots of victories — except in the four tournaments fans really notice. It has left a lingering scent of failure to her career.

I think she has carried the proverbial “gorilla” on her back long enough. Most of the tennis world would, I’m guessing, agree. Here’s hoping she relieves herself of that burden in Melbourne on Saturday.



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