NEW YORK – Caroline Wozniacki is chasing a tennis ball far to her right. But with three quick-steps the All-Danish girl catches up and delivers a stiff forehand to her foe’s ankles.
Wozniacki, she of the golden smile and plenty of gold in the piggy bank (over $ 10 million in prize money) is 21, has won 18 tournaments and intends to seize the US Open as the 19th. There’s only one thing wrong with this pretty picture of Polish parentage: Caroline is serving her 46th consecutive week in that forbidding hideaway called No. 1. It’s hers all alone – yet most of her colleagues and tennis degenerates believe she doesn’t deserve it, despite all her gleaming numbers.
Why? Because she has never won a major title. The closest she came was as a US Open runnerup to Belgian Kim Clijsters a year ago. But, no major – No No. 1. That’s the silly way it is in the female game, dictated by Medusa, the WTA (Women’s Tennis Assn) computer,
Anybody who can figure out Medusa’s brain and the computer deserves an MIT degree. Suppose the Red Sox won the pennant but the Yankees scored more runs and were awarded No. 1?
You get the idea. If she doesn’t win the title, Caroline will remain No.1. Ask Medusa, not me.
Beating Spaniard Nuria Llagostera Vives, 6-3, 6-1 in yesterday’s first rounder at Flushing Meadows, Wosniacki “didn’t miss; she was so confident, just kept balls going along the baseline” according to the No. 125 loser.
Caroline was having fun with reporters who wondered if she were bothered by the No. 1 debate and criticisms of the mysterious system. “People can say what they want,” she said, her blue eyes glowing merrily, “I’m No.1. I’ve won a lot of tournaments. Why shouldn’t I be high? I just won a tournament, New Haven, and I’m improving.” She felt like a Phi Beta Kappa, winning four straight titles on the Yale campus. “I thought about going to college. It looked nice, fun, the college students were very friendly but I couldn’t do it with my schedule.”
She seemed amused by talk of her dating the golfing champion Rory McIlroy. “You know, he has something I’m looking for, (he won the US Open in golf) and I have something he is looking for. He wants to be #1. So it’s good to have something on each other.”
Does being No. 1 seem a burden at times?
“No. It’s definitely an honor, a dream.”
A tireless retriever, she needs to add some variety, advancing behind solid groundies. But No. 1 ain’t bad. What about a coaching change, changing the role of her father, a former professional soccer player in Denmark where she was born.
Then Caroline dropped a bomb. She’s adding a coach – but it’s a mystery. A he or she or it? She won’t say who or what. “Well, I know you like to add something to your stories, but this person wants to stay in the background.”
Maybe a Yale geometry professor to teach her improved angles. Yale was fun.
Send her a bulldog that barks “Boola-boola!”