She has finished the least two seasons as the World No.1, won 18 WTA titles on all surfaces, including 12 in 2010 and 2011, winning over 120 matches in that span which is more than any other player. She dealt with constant criticism for being a slam-less No. 1 and faced it head on. With her drive and determination, It seemed that a Grand Slam title was in Caroline Wozniacki’s near future.
However, a string of below standard results which are rooted in a surprise third round loss at the hands of Daniela Hantuchova at Roland-Garros last year, the 21-year-old Dane finds herself at a crossroads for the first time in her young career. She began 2012 as the no. 1 seed at the Australian Open and just two months later finds herself outside of the Top 5 following a fourth round exit at Indian Wells where she was the defending champion.
Not so long ago, Wozniacki seemed to have everything going for her. She emerged as the face of her generation, full of positive energy and good intentions, ready to embrace her status within the sport. Lately however, Wozniacki has been pushed aside by two of her fellow next generation players, new World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. Undefeated on the season with four titles, Azarenka is having a Djokovic like year and has set the bar very high out of the gate. She and a rejuvenated Maria Sharapova suddenly have a firm hold on the top two WTA ranking spots and have an interesting rivalry building having already met twice in the two biggest finals of the season so far. Meanwhile, Kvitova can hit anyone off the court, Agnieszka Radwanska is utilizing her all-court game to maximum efficiency, there are four promising Germans in the Top 20, Kim Clijsters and the Williams sisters are on the injury comeback trail and Ana Ivanovic is slowly re-discovering her 2008 form. While the landscape of women’s tennis is changing, Wozniacki’s game appears to be stuck in neutral and she is regressing while her biggest rivals are progressing.
She has made a concerted effort to improve her weakest shot, her forehand, trying to hit it deeper and with more direction. In doing so, Wozniacki has gotten away from the things that made her great to begin with. She prides herself on turning great defense into offence, using her backhand to create openings and willing herself to victory against her toughest opponents. Over the past few months, Wozniacki has been in between strategies as she tries to shape her identity as a player. She wants to be more aggressive, but is struggling to use this mind set as a compliment to her ‘A’ game. In a lopsided loss to Ana Ivanovic in the Round of 16 at Indian Wells, Wozniacki showed signs of frustration and dejection. According to several journalists on-site, she held back tears in her post-match press conference as she tried to explain her decline in form.
By no means is it time to throw in the towel on Wozniacki. She should stick to the style she is most comfortable playing and use it as the base to improve her overall game. Perhaps this means a coaching change is necessary, but only Wozniacki has the answer to that question. One thing is for sure, women’s tennis needs Caroline Wozniacki at her best. Her diligence, work ethic, talent, sunny disposition and passion for the game make her a great role model and spokesperson for her sport.