• What The Deuce

Wozniacki must start thinking like a world No. 1

Jo Carter July 19, 2011
Caroline Wozniacki is not playing like a world No. 1 © Getty Images

Caroline Wozniacki - a young pretender or a future grand slam champion?

Wozniacki appears to split opinion like no other player. One school of thought is that she is only world No. 1 by virtue of playing more regularly than her rivals, and she is just "keeping the seat warm" for tennis' next big star. The other is that she is a breath of fresh air for the sport that is in a lull - with the injury-prone Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams unable to dominate for a full season.

It is Wozniacki who can relate to Andy Murray's dilemma better than any other player. Like Murray, the Dane is still seeking her maiden grand slam and, as with Murray, the longer it takes for her to shift the proverbial monkey off her back, the harder it will become to prove her critics wrong.

The pair both shoulder a nation's expectation - Murray is the only British men's player in the top 150, while the second best Danish woman is the 19-year-old Karen Barbat, ranked No. 632 in the world. However, that is where the similarity ends.

While Murray has come close - three major finals and four more semi-finals, Wozniacki has not reached a grand slam final since the 2009 US Open, where the then 19-year-old fell in the final as Clijsters kick-started her remarkable "second career".

She was hailed as the future of the sport, and yet despite being the top seed at the last four majors, Wozniacki has not justified her seeding - failing to reach the final in all four slams. Murray may not have cracked the slam issue, but he thinks like a top player. The Scot is selective with which tournament he plays, and it is rare to see the world No. 4 at an ATP 250 tournament - Queen's is virtually the only one Murray plays in.

Wozniacki has not reached a grand slam final since the 2009 US Open © Getty Images

Murray, like the other 'big four', can pick and choose his tournaments with an aim of peaking at the slams. When fit, the Williams sisters, Clijsters and Maria Sharapova do likewise on the WTA Tour. By contrast, Wozniacki has a jam-packed schedule.

Granted, at 21, Wozniacki's body can cope with the weekly grind of the tour better than her more senior rivals, but there is an argument to say that she appears to run out of gas at the slams. Wozniacki's schedule resembles a top-50 player trying to pick up ranking points and prize money on the smaller WTA tournaments, not that of a world No. 1.

For the world's top-ranked player to consistently fail to reach the semi-finals, or even the quarter finals at a major, would raise a few eyebrows in the men's game. Since reaching the US Open final two years ago, Wozniacki has reached the quarter finals just three times.

The tennis circus is in a mid-season lull after the non-stop madness of back-to-back majors in Europe. While Rafael Nadal headed home to Mallorca for a well-earned rest, Wozniacki was straight back out on the tennis court at the Swedish Open.

The decision to play in Bastad left her nursing a shoulder injury. While the problem is unlikely to be serious, it should serve as a warning that she is not invincible - playing as often as she does is certain to do more harm than good.

Wozniacki celebrated her 21st birthday last week, and a more mature approach to her game could see her finally fulfil her potential. Ditch the smaller tournaments and focus on getting that monkey off her back.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk