Princess of Denmark Caroline Wozniacki sweeps to No1
While the cat’s away, the rest of the women’s tour will play. And the biggest reward has come to the beaming Caroline Wozniacki.
With 25 tournaments under her belt, six of them reaping titles, it was only a matter of time before she overtook Serena Williams to take the No1 ranking and, in doing so, Wozniacki has become the first player from Denmark ever to hold the top ranking.
Wozniacki is fast becoming one of the stars of tennis. Not only does she have a sunshine personality, prettiness in spades, and a youthful style perfectly captured by her Stella McCartney kit, she has a flexible, all-court power game that has taken her, at just 20 years of age, to the very top.
It has been an extraordinary summer for the Dane. Since Wimbledon, she has won 30 matches for the loss of just two. Sadly for her, one of those losses was in the semi-finals of the US Open where she had, until meeting a determined Vera Zvonareva, made serene progress without dropping a set.
In a rain-delayed final in the Beijing Premier event this week, though, she wreaked revenge on the Russian to take a tour-leading sixth title and her 59th match win of the year. It marked her second Premier trophy in as many weeks, coming hot on the heels of her win in Tokyo.
Surely it cannot be long before Wozniacki also captures one of the big events in the calendar: if not the Tour Championships in Doha in a fortnight’s time, then her first Grand Slam. She has already achieved much with her talent, consistency, and a great work ethic, but those very attributes will ensure she continues to improve, especially in her forehand and net game.
But what of the woman who seemed able dominate the tour with the minimum of effort, who played just six events this year, yet still managed to win two Grand Slam titles?
Serena had played no tennis because of a cut foot since capturing her 13th Slam at Wimbledon in July, but she finally announced her return to the tour in Linz this week. Within days, however, she had withdrawn again, citing an unspecified “physical problem”.
With so little preparation time before the end-of-year extravaganza in Doha, her chances of defending the title she won there last year began to look increasingly slim. More, though, was to come.
On her website on Sunday, she announced that her foot was injured again, and that she would be unlikely to return to play this year.
Meanwhile, her sister Venus, who played Serena in last year’s final, had already withdrawn for the rest of the season.
The elder Williams has been troubled by a knee injury for several months, only playing the three Grand Slams since reaching the final of Madrid back in May. Prior to that, however, Venus had reached four finals out of five tournaments, winning two of them, and climbed back to No3 in the world. So it is a sad end to a year that promised so much.
The Williams sisters are not the only mature players struggling with injury. The Belgian comeback queens, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, who have also picked up big points from very limited schedules, are dealing with injuries of their own.
Clijsters, following her win at the US Open, was due to play in Beijing but a long-planned minor operation on her foot did not heal in time and she withdrew. She still plans to make the trip to Doha, but is far from a certainty.
Meanwhile, Henin has been unable to play since Wimbledon because of an elbow injury, and her website suggests she will not be taking up the reserve place she could claim for Doha.
There are few, therefore, who seem able to keep pace with Wozniacki except the woman who has been her bÃƒÂªte noir all year, Zvonareva.
The day after the Dane secured the No1 ranking, the Russian ensured the No3 position, and the two stand at the top of the WTA race.
They are, in fact, threatening to develop a rivalry on a par with the American sisters and the Belgian duo. They stand at three all in their head-to-head, and stand two apiece in meetings this year -two in semi-finals and two in finals. It seems likely, therefore, that they will contest the Tour Championships, too.
At last the women’s game appears to have some new stars who look capable of stepping into the former champions’ shoes. What’s even more exciting for the fans is that they both seem able to do so with the most winning of smiles.
Heading to Doha: The line-up for the Tour Championships
Wozniacki, with back-to-back wins in the Far East, goes to Doha as favourite, as long as she has not over-played.
Zvonareva heads for Doha for the third time in a row and she may be the one to take advantage of Wozniacki if, as in New York, the Dane runs out of legs by the end of the tournament.
Clijsters has two tour-end titles -2002 and 2003 -to her name but has a foot injury. Fully fit, she would be a major contender.
Samantha Stosur reaches the Championship for first time: if she finishes the season strong, she will be a danger.
Francesca Schiavone also appears for the first time having broken into the top 10 for the first time in her career. At 30, she’s playing the best tennis of her career. If Roland Garros, why not Doha?
Jelena Jankovic reaches the finals for the fourth year in a row, and was semi-finalist for the last two years. She cannot be discounted, but seems doubtful to get beyond the semis again.
Elena Dementieva is playing the finals for the 10th time, and reached the semis in 2000 and 2008. She would be a popular, but a surprise winner this time.
Possible reserves: Victoria Azarenka, Na Li and Shahar Peer.