Why this former finalist might be favourite to make her mark in New York

Everyone wants to win. Many have, many still dream. Recent champions include Angie Kerber, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and of course Flavia Pennetta. One lady who has made the final before could be about to make her mark again and is no stranger to pleasing crowds in New York.

carolinewozniacki2014openday7mt5uarohfyhl

This iconic picture from 2014 is Caroline Wozniacki in a nutshell. The passion, determination and fight she shows on court is second to none. Her performance against Sharapova at Flushing Meadows three years is probably my favourite performance of all time.

Wozniacki is a player who has been on the tour for so long. She has seen so much and achieved so much but what is missing from her trophy cabinet is a Grand Slam title. She’s come close in New York twice before making the final on two previous occasions and with no Serena or potentially Maria as we don’t know what will happen there it is up for grabs and the only previous champions taking part potentially this year are Angie Kerber who has been in poor form this year, Venus Williams who has made two grand slam finals this year and surprise winner from 2011 Sam Stosur.

It’s a possibility but the coming weeks are important for Wozniacki as preparations as necessary and the decision to play in Sweden this week is one I think is a great decision as she bids to find confidence and consistency going into the final major of the year.

Why has Wozniacki struggled in finals this year? Is a lack of anticipation part of the problem?

So far so good for Caroline Wozniacki but it could have been better. Caro is one of the form players on the tour this year getting back up to a ranking of 12 in the world but in the race to Singapore she is sat a number three with just Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta ahead of her with Sinagpore just under 200 days away.

Three finals isn’t bad at all but what you are judged on at the end of the day is how many of those finals have you won? For Caro she is yet to pick up a piece of silverware this season but why is that?

I watch a lot of Wozniacki’s matches on tour and have watched her over the years so many time and I like her never giving up/giving in style of play but somethings been missing in these finals and on too many big points I’d have to say she seems to be more of a spectator in these big points rather than that usual anticipation and skill you ususally see in her game and now I’m going to look at a couple of points from to finals this year.

Elina’s passing shot

Passing shots in the first set in Doha were too high for a player who is as smart as Wozniacki and covers the ground so well it should have been 1000 times better but credit to Elina as well let’s not forget who during the match gave herself that extra split second to make a brave, bold and subsequently a right decision!

1c

Covering the court is Caroline Wozniacki’s bread and butter and a point she should have won. Looking at her body position she seems to be waiting for that backhand into body (blue line) and is set to play that close to the body volley over the net but doesn’t seem to think about that backhand passing shot and when she does react it’s too late and she went on to lose the set in that game.

Lessons weren’t learnt v Konta…

Wozniacki’s worst loss of the season to date based on games won was against Konta in Melbourne and from then to the Miami final lesson’s weren’t really learnt from the Dane who failed to upset the Brit’s rhythm from the baseline. This is Caroline Wozniacki who we are talking about who is usually so good at moving these baselines and making them run but she never asked questions and here is a point from the final in Miami which frustrated me.

2 c

Right now Caro is in this position due to a poor return. Now you can see above I’ve put together three options off this backhand from Caro. The cross court is unlikely, it would take perfect connection to rotate and hit such a low and dangerous shot is tough. The backhand down the line is on at this point but would need early contact on the ball but the shot that she played was down the middle which isn’t a bad idea but against Konta if you don’t get that depth in rallies you set yourself up for a difficult afternoon.

Time is something that Konta thrives on but Caro didn’t seem to anticipate it much at all and played into her strengths time and time again we saw too much of Konta lining up that forehand cross court or down the line and wasn’t under pressure.

Going forward?

Clay next for the Dane who will be hoping for some good results, she doesn’t have too many points to defend and conditions in Stuttgart in particular would favour her I believe!

Wozniacki fights back and is now just 1 win from Miami title!

It has been quite some time since Caroline Wozniacki won a Premier Mandatory title in fact the last time was just over six years ago at Indian Wells where she saw off Marion Bartoli but standing in her way of her first title of the season is Johanna Konta.

After a steady start to the year she has begun to find some form and to do it at one of the biggest tournaments outside of the majors is great for her.

The game has always been on her racket from the first time on tour but something that had been lacking for a while over the last few years is that digging out results regularly but this week she has had to fight and used all her weapons expertly and at the right time as she progresses to another final.

You have to credit Caro on what she has achieved and in some high pressure situations as well. She was down in the first set against Muguruza in a previous round and fought back to dominate the tie-breaker and then of course the Spaniard retired due to feeling unwell but to completely turn around as she did against Pliskova is a greater achievement.

Pliskova is the lead in the race to Singapore this year and started their semi-final very quickly with a break of serve with some clever backhands and this continued throughout the set as the Czech showed some solid serving and defending to take the set 7-5 and then the Dane turned on her magic.

The movement was better and she started creeping her shots towards the baseline forcing Pliskova to play a more instinctive style of play from the baseline instead of a controlled one. At the same time Pliskova’s served dropped dramatically with just 29% of first serves in play which is unheard for her and once Wozniacki got a hold she had no response her.

To go from taking a set 7-5 to then winning 2 of the next 14 games as she lost 7-5 1-6 1-6 to the former world number one is tough to take but one to learn from and importantly move on quickly from.

After wins against Safarova, Muguruza and Pliskova already this week standing in her way of her first title of the year is Britain’s Jo Konta!

caro

 

Dane’s defence too good for Bellis in Dubai

Sometimes in tennis you get taught a tough lesson and after her great win yesterday against Aga Radwanska the American teenager ran into a resilient Caroline Wozniacki playing her 9th match in 9 days across two tournaments which takes it out of most but not the Dane.

Caro held for the first game of the opening set but then Bellis found a bit of momentum and started hitting really strongly off the backhand which propelled her to a 3-1 lead against the Dane and then things started to fall apart.

Caro had a slow start yesterday and today but she knows what she needs to do and the defence went up and she grafted back into the set winning 5 games in a row to close it out to take a 6-3 lead before extending this to 4-0 playing with the style of come and break me down!

 woz-defence

The Dane’s defence was pretty exceptional and the yellow highlighted area shows the area she had covered against the American who tried her best to break down Caro but couldn’t and from almost impossible positions on the court kept rallies going and broke down the attack of the young American.

Another thing looking at the graphic I put together was the lack of depth Caro got on shots majority of the time. I talk about aggressive and depth being important which it is but also being aggressive behind the baseline and not always needing to paint the lines is essential as a player like Wozniacki plants that seed of doubt by getting to those extra balls and it’s a tough lesson to come up against a player who just nullifies any attack who has achieved so much and learnt so much in her career.

 

Wozniacki leaves it late to see of Bondarenko to advance in Dubai

Finalist in Doha last week and Caroline Wozniacki is on the right path for another good week on the tour after a hard-fought win against Bondarenko late at night in Dubai to seal her place in the next round.

The Dane didn’t get off to a good start, it took her until mid-way during the second set until she started to find that rhythm we saw constantly last week but when she turned it on it wasn’t just about turning on the style but her game plan was controlled and just effective.

Something she did introduce which you watch but probably don’t think much about is ‘moon ball’. Wozniacki has the defensive skills to keep rallies going and going and throwing this shot in just intised Bondarenko into trying this flying backhand which turned into a disaster for the Ukranian who produced error after error off it and continued to get frustrated.

When the Dane is at her best she paints the lines and with the backhand she started to find her range with the forehand as well cross court pulling Bondarenko across the court. It wasn’t a vintage Wozniacki performance but one she can turn back on and say job done as she reaches her fourth quarter final of the year which is the most of any player on the WTA Tour this year!

 

Wozniacki 7-5 6-3 Radwanska – Dane’s aggression too much as Radwanska falls early in Doha

At the beginning of the season I wrote about Aga’s need to find something extra to challenge the top players as she is never going to power them off the court but today she ran into a composed, aggressive and determined Caroline Wozniacki in Doha.

From the beginning of the match despite the first set being decided so late on it was the Dane who looked the more comfortable of the two during rallies and there felt like there was an inevitability that she would end up winning rallies winning 16 more points than Aga in the match which may not sound like much but is effectively four games.

Wozniacki is someone to keep an eye on at the moment she had a great run of form at the back end of last year but hasn’t got a similar run going as of yet but it only takes a couple of good performances to do it.

Three aspects of the game which were big contributions to the result were:

·      Wozniacki backhand

·      Radwanska forehand pressure

·      Aggressive return from Wozniacki

The backhand of Caro when not under pressure gave her time to pick her corner and slowly begin to grind rallies out and then put pressure on the Radwanska forehand corner with the depth and power on this slow court which she got forcing the Pole to stretch and try to use the slice just to stay in rallies against a patient and in control Wozniacki.

The main talking point from the match was the aggressive from Wozniacki whether is was on serve, during rallies but importantly on return.

 woz-return

This graphic from BT Sport pretty much sums it up. Over 75% of service returns from Wozniacki were inside the baseline some of which were almost an incredible 2 metres inside the baseline especially on that swinging serve out-wide which some of Wozniacki’s skill was all over and only ended up at times a metre behind the baseline.

This aggressive stance on returns shows that confidence in her game to execute these shots. Anyone can stand a metre inside the baseline and try to return serve but executing it throughout the match needs that composure on concentration which helped send Caro to the next round and if the weather holds off will be back in action later today!

Top seeds continue to fall in opening week!

The new season blues have continued to spread. Just the other day we saw Serena, Venus and Halep lose early and today adding to that list across the globe was the world number one Angelique Kerber a former world number one in Caroline Wozniacki and the previous two winners of the WTA Finals in Singapore in Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova.

The start of the season is about finding rhythm and it is a worry with the first major of the year just 10 days away with players going in with no momentum.

The beauty of a Grand Slam compared to a weekly event is that you won’t be playing everyday but playing every other day which does help players refresh and looking at a few performances especially ones that have gone to three sets as there hasn’t be consistency or momentum there.

Early losses opens up the draws and possibilities for the next couple of events where all will want to be at their best to win one of the biggest titles in the sport.