by Romana Cvitkovic
With the start of the U.S. Open, all eyes have been on current women’s #1 Caroline Wozniacki. Although standing atop of the world rankings, her game has come into question over the past year as she has yet to win a slam. According to her older brother Patrik Wozniacki though, most people forget she is only 21-years-old saying, “Caroline has been in one Grand Slam semifinal and one final. I’m sure it will come. If it’s not the U.S. Open now, it’ll probably come in the next couple of years. If it comes in two years, she will still only be 23 then.”
Like his sister, Patrik is social and pleasant, not afraid to shine that celebrity smile. His charming and optimistic attitude also seems to mirror his sister’s. He is well-qualified to comment on his sister’s success as he played professional soccer for the Danish team Hvidovre IF before taking a full-time position this summer with Lagardere Unlimited, the same management company that works with his famous sister. I had a chance to sit down with him during last month’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. where he was just beginning his work with Lagardere, before moving to New York City permanently. He was looking forward to his first project (a Lagardere fashion show for Adidas featuring Caroline during New York City’s famous Fashion Week) and a new move into one of the family’s two new apartments in New York “that Caroline bought.” He is happy to have the whole family in the city as it’s a place where “we can come together” and “do as many things together as possible” during the U.S. Open. (Follow Patrik on Twitter @PatrikWoz)
The two siblings grew up “playing tennis, soccer, a lot of different sports.” The Wozniacki clan is a close-knit one with their father Piotr having been Caroline’s primary coach from childhood up until this summer. When asked where his sister’s work ethic developed from, Patrik commented that she’s been inspired both by their culture and family.
“It’s a different mentality in the western European countries. My dad worked as a small kid and my mom worked hard for the things they had to do, to get money and to get food on the table. So we learned that mentality from when we were two years old: that you have to do hard work to earn things. We knew that from the beginning.” He elaborates on applying that mindset to sports, “There’s no way to do a half-way job if you want to be the best. You have to give 100%. If you’re doing 80%, that’s not enough to be #1 in the world. If you want to do math, or if you’re a chess player or tennis player, you have to spend a lot of hours in the classroom or on the court to do [so].”
Much like Caroline, Patrik has found success in the sports industry and his soccer career has opened many doors for him, both on- and off-the-field. He hit fame when he landed the role as a contestant on the Danish version of “Dancing with Stars” earlier this year. In reminiscing on his experiences, he smiled, “I had never danced before! But I had a good relationship with my partner and her boyfriend and I had a lot of fun.” Even in Danish, his performance below brings good humor and class.
Likening his performance in the dancing show to soccer, he stated that “I didn’t know I would get as far as I did, especially as a stiff soccer player.” With one-and-a-half hour practices during most of the soccer season, Patrik called soccer “almost lazy compared to tennis” when likening it to his sister’s schedule. “Soccer is not hard training. We do some running, some physical training. But compared to tennis, where you maybe run in the morning, have two hours hitting practice, then go [workout] physically, then have two hours [of practice] in the afternoon and evening, soccer is different.” There is still a stigma with tennis in some parts of the world that it’s not a physically-demanding sport. But with soccer having such an international following, it’s refreshing to hear a professional soccer player pay tribute to the sport with the fuzzy yellow ball. Patrik finalized his statement by saying that “tennis players are much more tough than soccer players are.” Most tennis fans would be inclined to agree with him.
And how was it growing up with Caroline as a sister? Patrik didn’t hold back in his answer. “I was the better one at tennis until I turned 15, and then when she turned 11, she started kicking my ass. So I thought, ‘Ok, I’ll stop playing tennis now.’ It wasn’t fun to lose to my little sister, a girl and four years younger than me! But I knew then that she was a big talent.” Both siblings also have a competitive edge and Patrik said that “we used to compete about everything and we still do… even when we play monopoly or backgammon, you name it, we still compete. In tennis, there is no chance for me anymore [to beat her], but the same in soccer for Caroline.”
He even recalled a particularly humorous story of just how competitive the siblings were against their own parents on court. “When we were young we always competed against our parents on the tennis court in mixed doubles: Caroline and I against our parents. The winner of the challenge won an ice cream” bought by the losing team, Patrik states. “Since there was the goal to beat them … we ate a lot of ice cream when we were young! I don’t know if the parents let us win or we were so good, but that was the fun part of doing it.”
And that kind of attitude is what Caroline has implemented into her own practice sessions. “Even though you practice hard, you have some fun stuff around the tennis. I think that’s one of the things why she’s #1 in the world right now,” Patrik remarked. “We still keep it very focused, but you have to loosen it up sometimes, and have fun.” He adds, “I think that’s why [the public and media] call her ‘Sunshine’ because she likes to keep things fun.” When asked if Caroline likes the nickname, Patrik replied in the affirmative, “Yes, she does. It fits her really well: hard working but still smiling.”
Patrik also admires the way in which his sister has set her goals professionally and attained them. “From the first time she started hitting, she said ‘I’m doing this because I want to be #1 in the world and win the four Grand Slams.’ It’s always been her goal. She achieved one of her goals, of being #1 in the world, and now she wants to win the four Grand Slams.”
As Caroline has been an inspiration for many young girls, it’s no surprise that she has found an inspiration in one of her best friends on-court as well, Serena Williams. “Caroline is inspired by her,” Patrik replied. “She didn’t play the week before Wimbledon and she got criticized, even though the Williams’ sisters have been doing that for eleven years, I think. She’s trying all the time to get the experience some of the other players have. I think it’s good for her; hearing other different champions how they are preparing for different tournaments, she can try and see if it works for her. It’s the small things that you do that make the difference if you win the Grand Slam or not.” Caroline has handled the pressure well of becoming #1 without a Slam title, and Patrik believes that she will continue being successful “as long as she keeps focus on her game and not try to change too much. There has to be a reason why she’s #1 in the world. She’s the most consistent.”
Patrik went on to elaborate how tennis has become a ‘progressive’ sport and that Caroline’s dream may one day come into fruition. “I was sitting and watching James Blake’s interview last night [where he talked about how] tennis is getting tougher and how people are playing longer in life and progressing over several years to get their goals. You don’t see many youngsters winning Grand Slams. You have [Petra] Kvitova who did an amazing job in Wimbledon but you don’t see that often. You have [Kim] Clijsters, [Francesca] Schiavone, and Li Na winning. Serena and Venus as well. They are not 22 anymore they are 28, 29 … The young generation has to wait for their time.”
And that includes his sister Caroline. With a charming personality and Hollywood beauty, there is no doubt she will follow in the footsteps of legends and one day win that prized Grand Slam.
By Luís Santos
As a die hard Elena Dementieva fan I was rooting for the fairytale thing to happen at this year’s Australian Open final but alas, I was brought back to reality – just like when she was around.
So Kim Clijsters finally won outside of NYC and she shattered the hopes of millions of people and also of Li’s. Now this might have been yet another Aussie Open that has gone by me without me watching much of it – it’s either that or me failing my college exams to watch countless hours of tennis – but a few things come to mind when reminiscing about Down Under.
First, of course, the notable absence of Elena Dementieva, who would have probably swept away the title just based on elegance, and because it wouldn’t seem right not mentioning, the absence of Serena William whose foot keeps on delaying her.
Henin retiring (for good) was also a headline that made the news on the eve of the women’s semifinals to the dismay of her antagonists. A kind word for Justine is in order though. Personal preferences aside, she was a great champion, who made the most out of what she had. I just hope she stays retired – indecision is not something a champion should have.
Finally, Li’s superb level throughout the fortnight, and the overall level of tennis displayed by the ladies with names such as Makarova, Kvitova and Schiavone coming to mind.
On a final note and in case you haven’t heard, Elena Dementieva won was well this week. It might not have been on the court but she still pocketed the Jean Borotra World Fair Play Diploma for her sports career. Elena was the fifth female tennis player to win such award and first since Chris Evert won back in 1989. Instead of attending the award ceremony she played a charity match in Moscow to help orphan children in her city.
So we tearfully farewelled Elena Dementieva, my favourite, the “Slamless Swan” and saw “Little Miss Sunshine” Caroline Woznaicki and her magical yellow panties, cement the world No. 1 ranking for the year, and Sam Stosur reminded us (with the help of Fran Schiavone) that sadly, all the love in the world can’t stop a choke. Vika Azarenka stuck around Doha for another girlie sleepover while Jelly Jankovic limped home. And finally, Kim Clijsters reminded us that her best days are far from over. There is credit going where credit is due, and that is to the fabulous field of eight women who showed us some beautiful, well-crafted, athletic and gutsy tennis last week in Doha.
It’s time to turn the volume back up now for my legitimate favorites, the boys of the ATP. It’s a big week, as the contenders for the Top 8 to reach the World Tour Finals in London scrabble to pick up as many loose points as they can, even if it means stealing it from an old lady. (Oh no wait, Kimiko Date is in Bali!)
While the Big Four (And Sod!) have already qualified, competition for the last three spots is tight, most of it depending on this week’s 500 tournaments in Valencia and Basel. Next week’s Masters in Paris Bercy will clinch the lineup.
There are six guys competing for the last three spots, and they’re all awesome. (And hot. Random, amazing, true.) These guys have all had a great season, for one reason or another, and would be great additions to challenge the “B4AS” and give us some depth in London. (Except Tomas, sorry – unless he leaves his brain at home).
With the 3665 points he picked up from basically being a badass this year, upsetting big ‘uns at the important moments, he had us all thinking he could do it before running back to the happy choking cave and refusing to win since Wimbledon. He’s in Basel for the week, but so are Nole and Fed, which means it’s likely the head case came too, packed and wrapped in a shiny red ribbon. Sweet.
The sexy Spaniard’s been aiming for this goal all year – unlike the dudes who pretend they have no interest whatsoever – and he’s done pretty well to get there, with an incredible clay season and consistent hard court results throughout the year. With 3325 points, he has an almost sure chance of getting in, even if he doesn’t pick up any spares in his backyard in Valencia.
It looks like a lackluster season, but we forget how well he did on hard courts at the start of the year, in Miami and Indian Wells. His 3305 points make it very easy to catch up to Mr Ferru or even Tomas, should Tomas lose early and Rod make it all the way. Though honestly, it’s Basel that he’s chosen for the week, and scary Fed is there. Boo.
Fernando Verdasco is trying to remind us of the inspired second half of a match he played in New York when he stole our hearts with that incredible matchpoint, hoping for a deep run in Valencia that’ll supplement his 3150 points. Got to remember though, that even if he takes the whole thing, that still leaves him shy, and who knows what else the other boys might pick up during the week.
My boy Misha is a worry. His 2910 points could have put him in contention if he’d done what he was supposed to do after beating Dima, and actually finished off Kukushkin for the St Petersburg title. Instead, he waltzed around the tennis court for an hour and now has to show us his stuff in Valencia or risks falling back down into top 20 land. He made the final last year, so Race aside, he could also fall significantly, dammit.
Whatever, Jurgen. We know you had a great year, but take what you got in doubles and shuddup now, okay. You got your Vienna title, but there’s no way you’ll make it to London for singles unless you somehow take Paris. I’ll snigger at the prospect now but let me bite my tongue – hell, this is tennis.
Honorable mentions go to Jo and Marin, who everyone’s going, what, them? They haven’t had such great seasons –until we remember they were our Melbourne semifinalists, though Marin has basically reached irrelevance and Jo’s pulled out of Valencia with an injured knee. Nico’s done great, and I’m proud, but that’s enough for now boy. Leave the Valencia points to the boys who need them.
*Caroline Wozniacki has capped a fantastic 2010 by ending the year as the world’s No. 1 star after she defeated Franchesca Schiavone to qualify for the semifinals in Doha. Her 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory ensures she will stay ahead of Vera Zvonareva in the rankings no matter what happens from hereon in. She will be disappointed not to have broken her major duck and the old debate about “worthy” number ones has re-arisen, but she can’t have too much to complain about from this calendar year. She becomes the 10th woman to finish the year as No. 1 since the rankings began in 1975 and is the fourth youngest, behind Martina Hingis, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, to do so. She had some words for her “worthy” doubters too: “It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl and I’m really happy and really proud about what I’ve achieved this year,” she said. “To be honest, there will be always sceptics. There are always people saying you’ll never reach the top 10, never reach the top five and you’ll never win a big tournament. If you win a Grand Slam, people will say it was a lucky shot or an easy draw. For me, the most important thing is that I know I had a great season.” Zvonereva has also become the fifth Russian, after Anastasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina, to crack the Top 2.
*Jim Courier has been named the new US Davis Cup captain. The 2005 Hall of Fame inductee follows Patrick McEnroe who stepped down in September after ten years in the hotseat. “I definitely thought that being the captain would be something that I’d enjoy and now I get to see if I will,” said the two-time winner as a player. He also lifted both the French and Australian Opens twice. “There’s been a great camaraderie amongst the guys playing for Patrick over the past decade, and if we can keep that same spirit, I think we’ll have a great chance to win,” he continued. “There’s a lot of diversity in the squad. You’ve got veteran players, with Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, the Bryans, and hopefully James Blake can get back in the conversation.”
*1987 Wimbledon winner Pat Cash has given his full backing to the appointment of Pat Rafter as the Aussie Davis Cup captain in his bid to lead Australia back to the World Group. “It came as a surprise to me because I didn’t even know Fitzy was moving on,” Cash told the AAP in an interview from China. “It’s always been Fitzy’s job, but I’m sure Pat will do a great job. I’m sure he’ll get the best out of his players. He played a lot of great Davis Cup matches and put his heart and soul into it and it’s always been a great Australian tradition to have great Davis Cup players as captains.” For the full interview, including his views on Australia’s reliance on Lleyton Hewitt, visit The Sydney Morning Herald website. Rafter also gives his views on the challenges facing him at Tennis.com.
*Roger Federer is now tied with Pete Sampras at fourth in the all-time ATP titles list after beating Germany’s Florian Meyer to lift the Stockholm Open. The world No. 2 said: “It’s amazing that I’m there where Pete’s ended his career.” He still has some way to go to be the best ever though. Jimmy Connors holds the record with 109 titles ahead of Ivan Lendl (94) and John McEnroe (77). That was also his 50th win of the year, making him the fifth man since the Open Era began in 1968 to achieve this feat in at least nine straight years. “Early on, I think that feeling of wanting to prove yourself to the world and all the doubters is a very strong one,” the Swiss continued. “So you’re very aggressive in your ways of winning and not enjoying them. Today it’s much more of the enjoyment part because I don’t need to prove myself to anyone anymore, except to myself.”
*Britain’s top doubles pair, Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski, have announced they are splitting to “freshen things up” following a disappointing end to 2010. They entered the world’s Top 50 earlier in the year after reaching the final at Eastbourne but things have not gone so well since. However they have not ruled out playing doubles for Great Britain in Davis Cup. Fleming said: “We’ll always be friends but it will be best for both of us to freshen things up. We came through Futures and then Challengers to win two ATP titles, play all four Grand Slams and represent Great Britain in Davis Cup.” Skupski added: “Colin and I decided it was best if we got a fresh start with someone new in 2011. We have had a lot of success over our time together and we really have enjoyed it. Things have been tough for us over the past few months and we thought it was the best move for both our careers.” For reaction to the news check out the Lawn Tennis Association website.
*Juan Martin del Potro, Tommy Haas and James Blake have added their names to the list of confirmed stars for the 2011 SAP Open in Northern California. World No. 7 Fernando Verdasco, No. 15 Gael Monfils and current US sweetheart Mardy Fish are already confirmed as are Aussie pantomime villain Lleyton Hewitt, Sam Querrey and Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori. It has also been confirmed that two-time SAP Open winner Pete Sampras will return to play a special one-off singles exhibition against Monfils. “We are thrilled to welcome James Blake, Tommy Haas, Juan Martin del Potro and Pete Sampras back to the 2011 SAP Open,” said Tournament Director Bill Rapp. “Each of these players has had a tremendous amount of success here in San Jose and we look forward to having them back in the Bay Area.”
*Russian pinup Maria Sharapova and Sasha Vujacic of the LA Lakers have announced their engagement. It was confirmed by Sharapova’s agent; Max Eisenbud.
*Strange injury alert. Andy Murray has strained a tendon in his hand playing Playstation, according to the Daily Express. “I just lost 1 match to dani [Vallerdu] at the new pro evolution and I think I broke my hand!” Murray wrote on his Twitter account. “Icing the hand… over playstation [-] time to grow up andy!” Murray was at home in Dunblane where he was acting as best man at older brother Jamie’s wedding to his fiancée, Alejandra Gutierrez.
*Roger Federer has revamped and re-launched his official website with clearer images and a more user-friendly interface. www.rogerfederer.com is hugely popular with over 310,000 registered members and almost 3.5m visitors so far during 2010. “It is fantastic to have such a great fan following in the ‘real’ world as well as on the web,” said Federer. “It is because of this that I decided that it would be important for me to give my loyal fans something new and exciting,”
*Austrian former world No. 1 Thomas Muster’s return to the ATP Tour after 11 years was short, but certainly not very sweet. The 43-year-old French Open winner (1995) went down 2-6, 6-7(5) to by the world No. 157 and party pooper Andreas Haider-Maurer. “I don’t want to define my goals,” he said afterwards. “There is no pressure of getting into the top 10. It’s about enjoying tennis. In ’99, I hated tennis, now I love it.” He seemed to struggle at times on the hard court having achieved most of his success on clay but he added: “There was more in it if I could have played more aggressively in the first set. In the second, I managed to dictate the pace of the game sometimes.”
*Readers of AskMen.com have voted Rafa Nadal the second most influential athlete in the world. More than 16 million readers visit the website monthly and Nadal was voted 15th in their Top 49 Most Influential Men poll for 2010. Only New Orleans’ Superbowl-winning Quaterback Drew Brees (6th) was higher. Nadal finished above actors George Clooney (18th) and Leonardo DiCaprio (43rd) as well as even the US President Barack Obama (21st). The complete roster and nominee profiles can be found at www.askmen.com.
By Luís Santos
It was a sad day for Elena Dementieva as she was forced to retire from the semifinal of her favorite Grand Slam, after dropping the first set 7-6(3).
Elena was attempting to reach her third slam final, and second at Roland Garros, but after struggling with injuries all tournament it finally caught up with her as she conceded an easier ride to the final for gritty Franny Schiavone.
Elegant Elena actually served for a 5-3 lead holding 4-3 and 40-15 but it wasn’t meant to be as Schiavone turned things around to level the match at 4-all and eventually go up 5-4. As the players entered the tiebreak it seemed as if Elena would move up a gear going up 2-0, but she quickly let Francesca win six points in a row and eventually the Italian won the set.
After that Elena said goodbye to the tournament in a mist of tears and disappointment. Her fans feel the same.
By Luís Santos
Sad day today at Roland Garros as beautiful Maria Kirilenko says goodbye to the singles’ tournament. She went down to Franny Schiavone 6-4 6-4 but it was a great match to watch!
Maria can play every shot in the book and we got to see some great volleys and dropshots today from her. Adding to that she managed – on occasions – to be as explosive off the ground as she can get. However, Schiavone was not letting this chance of getting to the quarters slip by and saved 8 out of 10 break-points throughout…
Maria has become somewhat of a giant-killer in slams, beating the likes of Sharapova and Safina Down-Under and now sending defending champion Kuznetsova back home as early as the third round.
Today was not to be her day but it still marked Maria’s best French Open to date.