Let’s not make a racket, but that Woz the easiest draw ever

Final major of the season a welcome distraction from the equipment issues and boyfriend rumours

Let’s go down what is a very long list. The 23-year-old Dane has struggled for most of the season as she has looked to remodel her game, shifting to a more aggressive brand of tennis after years of success as a counterpuncher. Then there was the racquet controversy at Eastbourne, where Wozniacki showed up with a blacked-out Babolat racquet, a clear violation of her contract with Yonex (which soon terminated the partnership). Now in the week leading up to the US Open, rumours have surfaced that pro sport’s reigning power couple – Wozniacki and PGA golfer Rory McIlroy – might be splitting up, though the couple have issued strong denials on their respective Twitter feeds. 


Looking for redemption

But the US Open offers the Danish star a chance to salvage her season. Wozniacki clearly enjoys the tennis-under-the-lights atmosphere in New York, a stage where she enjoyed the greatest moment of her career. As a teenager in 2009, she reached her only Grand Slam final before losing in two sets to Kim Clijsters.

After disappointing early exits at the French Open and Wimbledon, Wozniacki enjoyed some success on the summer hard-court circuit. She advanced to the quarter-finals in Cincinnati despite having a difficult draw, and then she followed that with a semi-finals appearance at New Haven. Still, the former world number one has yet to win on tour this year.

Despite a so-so 2013, US Open officials have seeded Wozniacki sixth and her draw is a good one. Ladbroke’s make her a 5-2 favourite to win her quarter of the draw, and even then, she will avoid the favourite Serena Williams until the final. Should she prosper, her first real test won’t come until the quarters, where she is expected to meet the world #21, Romania’s Simona Halep, who beat her at New Haven, which she went on to win.

Still, none of the bookmakers seriously expect her to win. They have her pegged at anywhere from 33/1 to 80/1 to win – not exactly a ringing endorsement. But maybe the underdog role will allow her to operate outside the withering gaze of critics.

“There is definitely less pressure now that I am not ranked #1,” Wozniacki said in an interview with the New York Times. “It is nice going into some matches as the underdog, but I definitely hope to return to the top of the game soon.”

Wozniacki won her first-round match at the US Open, and plays again late Thursday night against South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers.


Much ado about a racquet

The racquet row was another distraction for Wozniacki this summer. She grew up playing with a Babolat before ending her relationship with the French manufacturer for a more lucrative deal with Yonex in 2011 shortly after becoming #1. The move was seen as a risk-laden attempt by Wozniacki to expand her global brand. Coincidentally enough, her boyfriend also made a similar decision earlier this year when he made a full-bag switch to Nike clubs from Titleist as the world #1 and then subsequently struggled on the PGA Tour.

“I think if you ask anybody, switching racquets is a risk,” a former men’s pro, David Witt, told the New York Times in 2011. “Especially when you’ve played with a racquet for two or three years and the company knows you, and you’re used to that racquet.”

Wozniacki is now without an official racquet sponsor, – her American agent has told Politiken they would wait until the New Year before looking for a permanent partner.

“Caroline has done a good job for Yonex, and they understood that she could achieve better results with another racket,” said John Tobias.

With such a good draw, she should get her chance at the US Open.