sweet caroline

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Caroline Wozniacki: a true tragic heroine at the US Open

Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki goes down in flames during the first round of the US Open on Tuesday. (Photo via USOpen.org)

By David Kane, Special for Tennis Grandstand

How fitting that Caroline Wozniacki’s disastrous first round loss should take place beneath a full moon.

After all, three years ago “Sunshine” had her breakthrough Grand Slam victory at a US Open night match. Two years ago, she entered the tournament as the #1 seed under the shadow of Serena Williams’ absence, and took out Maria Sharapova in full shade, and last year she was thoroughly outhit under the lights by Williams, who definitively denied Wozniacki the opportunity to prove to pundits that she belonged at the top of the women’s game. Throw in today’s new low and one can trace Caroline’s time in Flushing and discover her to be a true tragic heroine.

The fight that had been Wozniacki’s trademark appears to have completely disappeared; even in matches against much stronger players, the image of a scrambling Caroline doing everything she can to keep the ball in play is a familiar one, and one we constantly witnessed as she grinded her way to the top of the world rankings. Seriously, when was the last time you remember Caroline Wozniacki not running down even the most surefire winners?

It was a game style that, devoid of power, rubbed most the wrong way, mostly because it didn’t seem fair that a “better” ballstriker or shotmaker could be undone by a “pusher” who did little besides putting the ball back in play. There were many moments where Wozniacki seemed destined to laugh last (on the court, at least), but ultimately I would argue that her hyperdefensive game, the very thing that helped her skyrocket to #1, kept her from the Grand Slam title she needed to validate her high ranking.

The general mood in the uncharacteristically empty Louis Armstrong stadium was one of befuddlement, and the spell didn’t break during the Dane’s medical timeout her knee. It failed to wane as Irina Camelia Begu, who also hadn’t beaten a top 10 player this year, smacked aces and winners past the “The Danish Wall.” And even the plaintive cries of children shouting, “Come on, Caroline!” were silenced when their player began shanking badly on her much maligned forehand side.

It was hard to get a read on the audience witnessing Caroline’s tragedy unfold, and why the audience hadn’t grown when the whispers of a potential upset got louder. Did everyone expect Wozniacki to make a miraculous comeback? The idea isn’t too farfetched, given her consistency and Begu’s complete lack of experience when it came to dealing with the situation in which she found herself. Perhaps, after the fall from number one, the first round loss at Wimbledon and the recent knee injury that ended her New Haven winning streak, this wasn’t the upset that it seemed to be.

She was injured; she hasn’t been playing that well. We can come up with a few excuses and move on.

The most tragic answer of all? Maybe whether it was an upset or not is irrelevant, that even if Wozniacki was 100% or playing better, she was never going to win this tournament anyway. The player who vowed to improve her game to win Slams at the start of the year is a shadow of her former self, true, but even her former self ostensibly lacked the firepower to take matches out of the hands of the best players, so while people may have expected her to beat an unknown from Romania, *where* she loses isn’t nearly as important as the sinking feeling that a loss was always on the cards for the latest victim of the Slamless #1 curse.

David Kane is an avid tennis fan reporting from the grounds of the U.S. Open. You can follow him on Twitter @ovafanboy.

Caroline Wozniacki Retakes Number 1 Spot (Yes, THAT fast!)

wozzy-no-1-slider

It is like Caroline Wozniacki never left the number one position. Little Miss Sunshine was number 2 for exactly one week and retakes the top spot this Monday when the new rankings of the WTA Tour come out.

Since Clijsters won’t play until the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Sweet Caroline is going to stay number one for a while but after that it is going to be very exciting.  Wozniacki has 700 points to defend at Indian Wells while Clijsters only has to defend a mere 80. But Clijsters is the title defender of the Sony Ericsson Open while Wozniacki has 250 points to protect. Yes, we are entering exciting times in women’s tennis.

In the meantime just enjoy the following photo of Caroline literally holding that number one:

ATP Tidbits: Djokovic and Starace Modeling, Isner and Wozniacki Flirting, Karlovic Gets Expert Car Advice

Laying down

This week, the players were enjoying themselves after a busy U.S. Open. They not only flirted on Twitter but got expert advice about car shopping for giants. Two new men took on the art of sophisticated modeling, namely Novak Djokovic and Potito Starace. Let’s jump right into the action!

Isner and Wozniacki, Sitting in a Tree …

What would the tennis world be without Twitter? Actually, I don’t want to know! It seems these days that the funniest conversations between players occurs on the microblogging site and fans, for one, can’t get enough. Think it gives players ammunition to further post funny happenings? Probably so.

Take John Isner for example (@JohnIsnerTennis). Twitter has well-documented conversations between him and Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) endlessly flirting and enjoying the attention. If they wanted to privately chat, they could through ‘direct messages’ but the duo chooses to showcase their 140-character flirting skills to everyone interested.

This past week, Bob Bryan (@BryanBros) tweeted the following:

Clearly, the two are good friends, but Isner took it one step further. He tweeted the following (including the long form URL of the same website Bob had just tweeted) to none other than … you guessed it! Wozniacki herself.

Not convinced that Isner is still flirting with Wozniacki? Bob then cemented the comment everyone was thinking:

Now, remember how everything with an @ mention is visible to everyone? Well, it then seems that Wozniacki got the last laugh:

Oh, sweet Caroline. Fueling the man that asked WWE pro wrestler Maryse Ouellet to the ESPY’s earlier this year, also via Twitter. Think he has a ‘thing’ for platinum blondes? Boy needs a new way of picking up chicks!

Novak Djokovic Models Sergio Tacchini

Novak Djokovic is the face of tennis brand Sergio Tacchini. And while they outfitted him in some flaming outfits and hats at this year’s U.S. Open, their Fall/Winter 2010 Collection takes the cake. In preparation for their new collection’s launch, the brand teased us with several photos of Djokovic in casual wear. I like. I like very much. It brings the rugged mature side out from him.

The only criticism I have is that his eyes seem droopy in two of the photos. In the words of Tyra Banks: Smile with your eyes, Nole. Smile with your eyes!

Are they trying to make his giraffe-neck look shorter here? Because they failed. Still hot, though.

Potito Starace in Caster Bleige

Know how to correctly say ‘Potito Starace?’ Know who he even is? Well, take lessons in Italian and tennis and you’ll be good to go. Or, you know, cheat by going to the ATP World Tour site and get this hint: ‘po-Tee-tow stah-RAH-che.’ Makes sense? Now, on to the important business: he’s also modeling his sponsor, Italian brand Caster Bleige. And he’s look mighty smooth – take a look at the collection below. (Tip from http://twitter.com/TSFtennis .)

Ivo Karlovic asks for Car Advice

Croat Ivo Karlovic may not have a lot of followers on twitter like Fernando Verdasco or Andy Roddick, but he knows how to reach out to his fans. His biggest obstacle this week? Looking to buy a car he actually fits into. Why is this an ‘obstacle’ exactly? Karlovic is no Federer or Nadal. He’s nine inches taller than either player and comes in at a skyscraping 6’10”. Now you understand the dilemma of purchasing a luxury car for a giant. Karlovic, of course, wanted expert advice so he took to his Twitter account.

He got some answers from friends and fans, even a teasing remark from a past ATP employee citing a Volkswagen Beetle as his car of choice. Others threw out the Porsche Panamera and BMW M3 or M5. Karlovic’s response? A sad “can’t fit” or “too small.” In the end, it looks like Karlovic made up his mind … mostly.

Personally, the Mercedes would fit his alter ego, the rapper, better. Imagine seeing Karlovic cruising down Ocean Drive in Miami with his gold chains dangling from his neck.

Caroline Wozniacki Talks

After the exciting match between Caroline Wozniacki and Dominika Cibulkova, which Caroline won in straight sets 6-2, 7-5,  Wozniacki sat down with  Next Contenders for an exclusive interview.

Here is an excerpt of the interview and you can find the article at American Express’ NextContenders.com

Sweet Caroline did it again on Wednesday night, knocking out her quarterfinals opponent, Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, in just two sets 6 2, 7 5, and continuing her impressive run of not dropping a single set at the Open, despite the windy conditions on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I’m happy to be through definitely, it was a tough one,” Caroline told me when we caught up after the match. “The wind was not easy to cope with. It was just about getting it in. I wasn’t really thinking to place it anywhere special, I was just thinking about getting it in. But a win is a win and I’m happy to be through to the semifinals.”

Next up, Caroline faces seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia, who she beat in the finals of the Rogers Cup in Montreal last month in straight sets, and who also made it to the finals of Wimbledon this year.

“She’s a tough player. She’s a good competitor,” Caroline said. “She takes the ball and really tries to be aggressive all the time. So it’s going to be a tough match.”

Of course, Caroline’s game has improved greatly since her last Open, which she’s not shy about admitting. “I definitely think I’m a better player now than I was before,” she said, to which I asked how exactly she upped her game.

“Well, the fitness definitely has been a big part of it— boxing, running, a lot of cardio. I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been, I think, and that’s helped me to get into the right positions for my shots and that’s a good feeling to know that you can just continue.”

And they also provided us with some great videos:

Caroline Wozniacki – Language lessons and loose lips

Caroline on being the face of Stella McCartney’s Adidas line

Caroline says hello to the city of New York

What to wear? The fashionable Caroline Wozniacki tells us what it takes to win it all

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