Friday, January 21, 2011

Australian Open: It's Time, Caroline!

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World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki has advanced to the Fourth Round of the Australian Open with a straight set (6-4, 6-3) win over No. 29 Dominika Cibulkova. This is the second consecutive Grand Slam event in which Wozniacki eliminated Cibulkova in straight sets. She also beat the Slovakian last summer at the U.S. Open (6-2, 7-5) in the Quarterfinals, ending Cibulkova's Cinderella run.

But no matter how much we like Wozniacki (or as many have dubbed her, Sweet Caroline) and no matter how well she performs in non-Grand Slam events, she still has a huge mountain to climb before she is perceived as a consensus World No. 1.

You see, Wozniacki gained the No. 1 ranking pretty much by default late last year. Yes, she won a WTA-best 6 tournaments in 2010 but none of them were major events. Wozniacki snuck in and took over the No. 1 ranking because then-consensus World No. 1 Serena Williams had to end her season after winning Wimbledon due to a foot injury. By not playing in any more tournaments, especially the U.S. Open, Serena lost ranking points and slipped to No. 4 by year's end. Wozniacki took over the No. 1 ranking on Oct. 11, 2010 mostly in part because Serena wasn't around to defend it.

When asked,Wozniacki has said, time and time again, that she has nothing to prove and is proud and deserving of her No. 1 ranking because of the great year she had in 2010. True, 2010 was a monster year for her but even she knows, deep down inside, that her statement isn't 100% true. In the business of tennis, you are judged by how many Grand Slams you win and how well your overall performances in the 4 major Grand Slam events are. She knows that, I know that, everyone knows that.

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As of today, here are Wozniacki's best showings in Grand Slam events:

1. Australian Open - 4th Round (2008, 2010, 2011)
2. French Open - Quarterfinals (2010)
3. Wimbledon - 4th Round (2009, 2010)
4. U.S. Open - Final (2009)

For anyone else those are decent performances but when you are ranked No. 1 in the world, you are judged at a much higher level than anyone else. I'm sure Sweet Caroline knows this but, in her defense, she has to say something to fend off the media until she finally does win her first major title.

At this point her No. 1 ranking is very vulnerable. If she doesn't advance to at least the Semifinals, and either No. 2 Vera Zvonareva or No. 3 Kim Clijsters win the event, she will lose the No. 1 ranking to either one of them. Both Zvonareva and Clijsters have advanced to the Fourth Round.

But so far things are going her way and at only 20, it's just a matter of time before she does win her first Grand Slam title. I don't think anyone has any doubt about that.

And I'm sure she wants to win it at this Australian Open just to get the monkey off her back.

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