Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wozniacki out of Cincinnati in 2nd round

Christina McHale
Last week it was Roberta Vinci; today it was wild card Christina McHale who took world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki out of a major hard court tournament in the second round. Wozniacki retired at the Swedish Open in early July, and has not since found her way back. Against McHale, she made a number of unforced errors on both sides, and did not look at all like the confident Wozniacki of earlier times.

Next week, the world number 1 plays in New Haven in a tournament she has won three consecutive years. Will her past success give her a confidence boost, or will Wozniacki continue to crumble under the pressure? She has long protested that holding the number 1 ranking without winning a major doesn't trouble her. Yet Wozniacki, like Dinara Safina before her, has been almost constantly scrutinized and criticized for her failure to win one of the four majors. Not helping her case is the fact that Serena Williams has returned to the tour, and that 21-year-old Petra Kvitova, just last month, lived up to her considerable potential and won Wimbledon.

Wozniacki, despite not earning a major title, has been a consistently big winner on the tour, grinding out matches with such accuracy, endurance and precision that she has worn down a number of very fine opponents. But in the really big tournaments, she has struggled. This year in Melbourne, she lost in the semifinals to Li Na. In the third round of the French Open, Daniela Hantuchova handled her in straight sets by serving at a high level and preventing the Danish player from establishing any rhythm on the court. At Wimbledon, Wozniacki lost in three sets to Dominika Cibulkova in the round of 16.

What does it  mean? The world number 1 is often taken to task for relying too much on defensive play and letting players with an attacking style dominate her on important occasions. That's a very sound theory, but I suspect that Wozniacki's unfortunate results at majors are caused by more than one factor.

The woman who is known as the Great Dane generally favors hard courts, and her one run to a major final was at the 2009 U.S. Open, when she lost to Kim Clijsters. Wozniacki's 2011 U.S. Open Series isn't going well at all. It isn't that unusual for a top player--for one reason or another--to have poor results in tournaments preceding majors. However, Wozniacki has no history of bringing her best tennis to the big four tournaments; rather, she has under-performed. We'll find out soon enough how just how much her U.S. Open Series losses have affected her. In the meantime, she'll be going for a fourth straight New Haven title.

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