Caroline Wozniacki: US Open preview
RealSport look at the chances of two-time finalist and world #2 Caroline Wozniacki ahead of the start of the US Open in New York next week.
Last year’s result
2017 was a year of resurgence for Wozniacki as she delivered some excellent performances. But those good performances did not extend to the Grand Slams where her best effort was a run to the quarterfinals in Paris. At the US Open, she disappointed, losing in the second round to Ekaterina Makarova 2-6 7-6 1-6. It was a loss all the more difficult to take for the Dane after her good form leading up to the US Open which had seen her reach the final in Toronto and the last eight in Ohio.
Wozniacki’s year got off to the perfect start in Melbourne where she finally won her first Slam and also returned to the top of the world rankings. Unfortunately, progress has rather stalled since. She has only won one other title, in Eastbourne on the grass, and she was not able to carry that good form into Wimbledon. Despite a promising start against Varvara Lepchenko, who she beat 6-0 6-3, she fell in the second round to an increasingly familiar foe, Makarova, 4-6 6-1 5-7.
She was then scheduled to begin her hard court season in Washington, but withdrew ahead of her first match. She did take to the court in Montreal, and won the first set against the dangerous Aryna Sabalenka, but lost in three. Her trip to Cincinnati brought no improvement in results either, although she did face the exceedingly difficult draw of Kiki Bertens. Wozniacki couldn’t complete the match, retiring after losing the first set and Bertens went on to win the title.
Most important shot
Though Wozniacki has worked hard throughout her career to tighten up the weak spots in her game, particularly her forehand, her backhand very much remains the most important shot in her arsenal. She is comfortable going on the attack with the shot. Her confidence in changing direction with it often allows her to catch opponents off guard and exploit open space. But as with all areas of Wozniacki’s game, her backhand really comes into its own when she is on the back foot.
When she is under pressure, her backhand is rock-solid and, coupled with her impressive foot speed, has kept Wozniacki in countless points throughout her career. But she also excels at using it to turn the point around with a single shot. Her excellent racquet-head control allows her to hit the ball with accuracy and purpose even when she has been extended to the end of her range. Any opponent looking to attack into the Wozniacki backhand would do well to consider that.
Wozniacki has had success in New York in the past, most notably in making the final in 2009 and then again five years later, but she is also a three-time semifinalist. However, she does tend to blow hot and cold in the Big Apple as evidenced by the fact that she has lost before the fourth round on every other occasion she has played the US Open bar one. And unfortunately for her, this year seems much more likely to end in disappointment than it does triumph.
The talent is obviously there and Wozniacki must have put many of her mental demons to bed with her victory in Melbourne. But she has completed just one match so far in the run up to Flushing Meadows, and she lost it. She may well win some matches in New York, with the larger pool of seeds likely to spare her the nightmare draws she has received over the past couple of events. But right now reaching the second week would be an achievement. And even that doesn’t seem likely.