Caroline Wozniacki turned in her best performance of the year against Maria Sharapova yesterday. Can she top it?
The worn out knock against Caroline Wozniacki was the reason she was so damn awesome against Maria Sharapova yesterday. If you don't know what I'm talking about I'll give you a hint: It starts with a "D" and ends with a Sharapova error.
Not that there was a whole lot that Maria could have done.
"I felt like, you know, I was playing well out there. I made her do those errors," said Wozniacki when asked if she felt that Maria handed her the match. "I knew she was trying to be aggressive," added Wozniacki. "For me it was important to keep as many balls in the court but still try to and move her around and try to dictate, as well."
It was a strategy executed to perfection, as Wozniacki enticed Sharapova into several 20-plus stroke rallies that served to wear Maria down, while Wozniacki only seemed to get more dialed in and energized.
Wozniacki was so steady yesterday, and so focused, that it was easy to envision her winning the Open, in spite of the fact that she's primarily a defensive player who prefers to let her opponents beat themselves. We've all been watching the exploits of Kim Clijsters, Samantha Stosur, and Venus Williams over the first eight days of the Open, and each is a prime example of how important an aggressive attack can be on the Grand Slam stage.
But every player is different, and must base their approach to the sport on their strengths. Wozniacki's strengths at this point are obvious, and it's a credit to her and her coach/ father that she has stuck with her guns (or lack thereof) throughout this year's Open.
After making her first Grand Slam final at last year's U.S. Open, the Great Dane (also tabbed "the golden retriever" by Bud Collins) has not been beyond the quarterfinals of a Slam since. Losses to Na Li in Australia, Francesca Schiavone at the French, and Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon have left critics wondering how she could be content to play such a defensive style when the rest of the top players all had significant offensive weapons to rely on.
Very few people are questioning Wozniacki after yesterday's decisive victory of three-time Grand Slam Maria Sharapova, though. Yes, she may have relied on her defense, but rarely - if ever - has their been a better defensive effort from Wozniacki. Not only was she quick enough to get to practically every sizzling groundie that Sharapova launched at her, she also had the balance and the footwork to get in position and the supreme conditioning to tirelessly answer every shot that Maria sent her way.
Her uncanny consistency kept Maria pinned behind the baseline, and the forehand that many feel is prone to giving up short balls was flawless.
There are a lot of ways to spin the story of the match, and many will say that Sharapova's double faulting on a crucial break point or failure to employ the drop shot to get Wozniacki out of her comfort zone on the baseline were the reasons that she looked so stymied.
Others will acknowledge the fact that Wozniacki's remarkably low error tally (10 vs. 36 for Maria) was an amazing feat, especially given the constant pressure she was under from Maria. They will also point out that Wozniacki's backhand can be a significant offensive weapon when she is putting her weight behind it. And that her serve can be pretty dangerous as well.
Make no mistake about it: One match will not make Caroline Wozniacki a U.S. Open champion, no matter how brilliant the effort was. She'll need three more to get the trophy, but with the confidence that her big time victory over Maria Sharapova has instilled in her, Wozniacki as the last woman standing is not nearly as much of a longshot as it was before the tournament began.
"I definitely think I've improved a lot, not only physically, but also I believe in myself more" said Wozniacki. "I Believe I can do it."
Thanks to yesterday, she's not the only one.