Caroline Wozniacki’s resurgence at the end of 2016

From LastWordOnTennis, by Filippo Colombo.

In Italy, we have a proverb that, I think, summarises Caroline Wozniacki’s 2016 quite well. It is “dalle stalle alle stelle,” its translation being “from stalls to stars,” and we abuse it mostly because of the assonance between the two words.

Apart from proverbs and difference between languages, the fact is that the turnaround of Wozniacki’s season amazed tennis fans. Given her poor performances before the Us Open, rumors about her retirement spread and somebody was even ready to say farewell to the Danish’s career. However, the former #1 just didn’t feel like ending her career ranked outside the top 50, at the end of the most disappointing season of her tennis life, and at the US Open Caroline Wozniacki was able to run until the semifinals, where she lost only against the #1 in the world and eventual US Open champion Angelique Kerber.

Wozniacki’s 2016 season has seriously been compromised by injuries that forced her not to play for a consistent part of the year. After her first round loss against Yulia Putintseva in Melbourne, she won just two matches until June, eventually skipping the entire clay season. It was the first time since 2008 that the Danish was ranked outside top 30, though this wasn’t considered a tragic scenario since her drop in the ranking was due to her inability to play matches, because of her physical conditions. However, things started getting even worse when she came back, in Nottingham. There, she defeated Turkish youngster Cagla Buyucakcay, but lost in the second round in a three-setter to Anett Kontaveit. The grass season continued to show disappointment for Wozniacki, who lost to Yanina Wickmayer at her first round in Birmingham, to Monica Puig in Eastbourne, and to Svetlana Kuznestsova at the first round of Wimbledon. For the first time in her career, she didn’t manage to win a single Slam match before the US Open.

However, Wozniacki not being seeded at Slams was still a surprising fact, as Kuznestova witnessed during the press conference after the match. She revealed the journalists that, when she was told she would face Wozniacki in her opening round, she asked if they were referring to Canadian Wozniacki (actually, her real name is Wozniak…). Wozniacki, despite her bad 2016 results, was still considered as one of the toughest women to face, and this attitude was probably in the Danish’s mind, too. Here’s where she found the strength to fight back and climb the ranking again, until she gets where she belongs. It’s too hard to rise “from stalls to stars” if you don’t have the attitude of a real champion.

With a 13-14 season record and ranked outside top 50, Wozniacki played her first round match at the US Open against local star Taylor Townsend. Not only did she have to face her opponent, but also a cheering crowd hoping to see their star winning against a good player. The match was really poor quality, with tons of unforced errors from both of them, though Wozniacki somehow managed to succeed in her comeback and to win in three sets, recording her first Major win of the year. She beat then Kuznetsova, scoring her first top ten win of 2016, and Madison Keys, another top ten win. She then defeated Anastasia Sevastova in the quarterfinals, before losing to Kerber after an unexpected run towards the semifinals.

Two weeks after the US Open, Wozniacki was already back on court in Tokyo, and she even won her first title of 2016, the 24th of her career, defeating players such as 2015 runner-up Belinda Bencic, Carla Suarez Navarro, Agniezska Radwanska, and Japanese rising star Naomi Osaka in the final.

With the thought of a big run in a Premier tournament, too, she played Wuhan the week after Tokyo, though her fatigue denied her getting past the second round, and she lost to Agnieszka Radwanska.

Though her early exit in Wuhan clearly made it impossible for the Danish to qualify for the year-end finals in Singapore, her possibility to compete in Zhuhai seems now quite sure, despite being unthinkable until the US Open. It is uncertain whether Wozniacki plays again in 2016, or decides to skip directly to 2017. Her stunning results at the end of the season, however, gave huge expectations about her 2017, and, who knows, maybe her long-life dream of winning a Grand Slam will finally became reality, especially now that the WTA provides open scenarios more often than ever (as long as someone beats Serena Williams).