Say what you want about Caroline Wozniacki. That she shouldn’t be number one without a grand slam title, that she doesn’t hit the ball with as much force as she should or that she’s not ready to compete with the top tier of women’s tennis players. The fact of the matter is that Wozniacki is a tough competitor who is more than worthy of her number one ranking as evident by her tough three set win over Italy’s Francesca Schiavone on Tuesday 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Schiavone, coming off of a 4 hour and 40 minute fourth round win against Svetlana Kuznetsova looked a lot fresher than the 20 year-old Dane who had blown by her first four opponents in a combined 5 hours and 30 minutes. Schiavone broke the world’s number one player twice in the first set and held a 3-1 in the second set and was set to cruise to a semifinals match.
Then Wozniacki woke up.
Wozniacki followed up with three second set breaks during a stretch where she took the last five games in the set and tied the match at one set apiece. She began to force Schiavone into bad shots with her finesse play and great passing shots as Schiavone finished with 46 unforced errors, 31 more than Wozniacki.
In the third set her serve finally came to life after being lackluster in the first two sets. Even though she was broken once in the set Wozniacki looked a lot more comfortable as she won more of her points than in the first two sets and Schiavone looked as if the amount of tennis that she had played in the last two days had finally begun taken its toll on her.
In the end Wozniacki’s grit and toughness paid off as she finished of her Italian counterpart by breaking her three more times in the set and ended the two and a half hour match in her favor.
After the match she greeted the media in boxing gloves and with a giant inflatable kangaroo in reference to a little white lie she told about how a fight with a kangaroo caused a cut on her shin.
This fight gave her more than just a great story.
The toughness she showed in battling back from the slow start should quiet a lot of the critics who complain that she isn’t worthy of the world’s top ranking.
Without a healthy Serena or Venus Williams and with a few players that haven’t lived up to their billing (hi Dinara Safina and Ana Ivonovic) the women’s circuit has been as topsy-turvy as the BCS rankings. No woman has stepped up to grab the number one spot for themselves and Wozniacki just so happened to be latest player to be in the right place at the right time.
To most spectators she’s a boring player with a boring game and personality that doesn’t offer the spark that women’s tennis needs.
However, ever since she touched down in Australia Wozniacki has been on a mission on or off of the court to change that perception.
She’s been more playful and open to reporters as seen with her tall kangaroo tale and had been dominant in the earlier rounds by not dropping a set.
Yet this win in this situation shows her worth as number one more than anything because she fell behind early but showed the heart of a champion in clawing back and eventually regaining her dominance in third.
It’s a match that she can use to build confidence off of for the rest of this tournament and down the road as she continues to defend her ranking when the Williams come back healthy and as Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters try to regain their championship form after long layoffs.
For now her main focus is on the semifinals and Li Na who is playing the best tennis of her career. After that a possible date in the finals against two-time slam champion Clijsters. None of this should faze Wozniacki who is starting to prove that she has the right to make a claim that she’s the best women’s tennis player right now and has the ability to go toe-to-toe with any competitor in women’s tennis.
She proved how much fight she has and she won’t back down from any competitor. That goes for tennis foes and kangaroos.