Wozniacki: No regrets on 2011

IT must be incredibly annoying for Caroline Wozniacki.

Wherever she goes, she is asked the same question; when is she finally going to win a grand slam title? It is a mark of the Dane’s character and personality that she answers each one with a smile, confident she is doing everything she can to fill the one blank in her CV.

Her relationship with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy — christened “Wozzilroy” in some quarters — which began in the middle of last year, has given the media something else to focus on but the attention will be back on her tennis when the Australian Open begins on Monday.

Wozniacki goes into the first grand slam event of the year still ranked number one, a position she earned in October 2010 and has held ever since, with the exception of a couple of weeks.

The Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, seems almost certain to take over sooner rather than later but, for a fortnight at least, the name of Wozniacki will be at the top of the draw.

It is a position she has become used to and one she clearly enjoys. China’s Li Na and Sam Stosur of Australia may have won the French Open and US Open respectively last year but Wozniacki says if she had 2011 all over again, she would not have changed anything.

“I think winning six titles and having the number one ranking for so long is definitely something I’d like to do for many years,” she said. “I’m happy with my year as well. Of course I would like to win a grand slam but I think I would like to keep my year.”

Outside her six WTA Tour titles, Wozniacki suffered early defeats in the French Open and at Wimbledon last summer. A good run at the US Open was ended brutally by Serena Williams in the semi-finals but her defeat to Li Na at the same stage here 12 months ago hurt most.

“I think they [Li and Stosur] deserve their success, they played very well for those two weeks. I had my chances, especially at the Australian Open. I think it could have been maybe different [if she had reached the final].

“That was definitely the one that was the hardest to get through. It was hurting a lot. But at the same time, they are both older than me and have had more tries. I still have more years in me so I’ll just keep trying.”

Effort is something that she has never been lacking. As fit as any of her rivals, she is a tremendous retriever but she lacks the power of a Williams, a Clijsters or a Kvitova, whose Wimbledon title last summer could be the first of many.

At 21, she has time on her side but seems determined to do things her way, rather than make any drastic changes to her game.

“The thing is, we play the same players all year and I’ve beaten the players who are winning slams,” she said. “I’ve lost to them as well — it’s all about having the momentum in two weeks.

“I can always improve but all the players keep improving so it’s about raising the level and raising the bar all the time. As number one you’re always a target so they always try to find new ways to beat you and they have nothing to lose. You need to be on your toes all the time.”

The addition of Ricardo Sanchez, who used to work with another slam-less number one Jelena Jankovic, to her coaching team late last year indicates a willingness to change. There has been much criticism of her gruelling schedule — she played 22 tournaments in 2011 — but anyone hoping she may follow Serena Williams’ example of less is more are likely to be disappointed.

“She [Williams] doesn’t need to play matches, she can come in and she can play unbelievable,” Wozniacki said.

“She can have a year break and she comes back and she’s playing great. For me that would not be possible. I feel most comfortable when I’ve played a few matches. I can feel the ball, I feel the court and that’s when I feel the best. I think we’re very different in those parts.”

The Dane says she has never felt jaded in any grand slam because of her schedule, but does feel the rigidity of the WTA Tour commitments means playing less often is easier said than done.

“The top 10 players have a lot of commitments so we don’t really have too much flexibility there,” she said.

“Sometimes maybe you say, ‘I’d like to skip this one’ but you can’t because it’s a commitment tournament. Or you can but you get fined. Sometimes I think there could be a bit more flexibility on that.”

For once she will arrive at a grand slam event without a stack of miles in her legs, though.

An early defeat in Sydney was followed by a quarter-final loss to Agnieska Radwanska in Brisbane earlier this week. That match saw her treated for a left wrist injury but an MRI scan revealed no major damage and she should be ready to go come Monday.

Having won the US Open last summer, McIlroy has the thing that Wozniacki wants, while the Dane has the number one ranking the Northern Irishman covets.

Having someone who is going through similar experiences is clearly helpful to both, even if Wozniacki admits the attention was pretty overwhelming at first.

“I definitely did not expect it to become that big, it was everywhere,” she said.

“I tease him, saying that’s how it is when you go out with a superstar. But I’ve got used to it. In Denmark, I’ve been in the public eye for a long time and you just learn to live your life and not think too much about everything around.”

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