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Overnight Upset: Wozniacki Out to Azarenka

By: Jane Voigt

The Australian Open has not been kind to Caroline Wozniacki.

She made her first trek to Melbourne in 2008, battling her way to the fourth round. She was 17. In 2011, the world looked wide open when she clinched a berth in the semifinal.

But things have gone down hill since.

In 2012, she lost in the quarterfinals. It was the fourth round in 2013. Last year, the third. And this year, her worse result ever: a second round loss.

“I think it’s a curse I’ve gotten here,” Wozniacki told the press. “Hopefully, I’m going to break that [trend] next year. I’m going to take this with means turn it into something positive.”

Always one to look on the bright side, Wozniacki seemed to know she should have won this match, but first complimented Azarenka: “I feel like her level, it’s high. She’s taking the ball early. She mixes the pace up. I think she’s at the level that she left when she stopped playing.”

When prodded by the press, Wozniacki admitted, “In general, I think I did okay. But at the same time I let her dictate. She played cross-court; I played cross-court back. I should have opened it up a little bit earlier and just tried to make her play my game.”

In other words, Wozniacki fell into a familiar pattern, one that she had seemed to have broken in the later stages of 2014. Her aggression was much more noticeable at the US Open, for example. She gritted her teeth, pulling off a fourth-round win over the then-No. 5 seed, Maria Sharapova. If Wozniacki, seeded No. 8 in Melbourne, had advanced today, she most likely would have run into top seeded Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. The two friends had the rivalry of last season, culminating with a three-set epic in Singapore.

The Dane can play, but she didn’t do enough Thursday night. Their head-to-head record had favored Wozniacki going in. But that familiar feeling, precise ball-strking, early contact, and willingness to come to the net let Azarenka light up about as bright as her tennis-ball yellow kit from Nike, which, she said, matches her intensity on court.

“So the energy and intensity stayed there with the outfit,” Azarenka told the press. “But, really, that’s how I play. I try to imply that intensity. I play aggressive. I think that’s one of my trademarks. Not the outfit, but the intensity.”

The intensity for Azarenka is on the rise following a dismal 2014. She had feet and knee problems; plus, she ended a meaningful relationship with singer, Stefan “Redfoo” Gordy.

Azarenka lost her first match back to rising star, Karolina Pliskova, in Brisbane earlier this month. It was a long and arduous ordeal. Looking for more match play before the Australian Open, she asked for a wildcard into Sydney but was denied. The tournament had already assigned them.

She, like Rafael Nadal, coming back after injury time off, had to accept who stood across the net even though Wozniacki and Azarenka are friends.

“I knew I’m unseeded so I can play anybody,” Azarenka said. “I just accept whoever is on the opposite side. But I don’t know how I feel on that level of sympathy. I think when you are on court you kind of have to forget about it [the friendship]. But we’ll have some fun after this tournament, so … No worries.”

The two women seemed to have been closer years ago, something like the friendship Wozniacki and Williams share now. In the spring 2011, Azarenka gushed about Wozniacki after winning Miami: she’s a good fighter, plays every ball, can turn a match around, and that kids should look up to you as a role model.

“Well, first of all,” Wozniacki began in kind a few weeks later in Charleston. “I have to say that if I’m not the one winning the tournament, then I’m happy that she was the one; and she’s a great friend of mine and we had very good tournaments, Indian Wells and Miami. I won Indian Wells and she won Miami.”

Does Wozniacki feel the same in 2015? Perhaps, but it might be harder if they continue to meet in second rounds instead of sharing titles.

For now, instead of the expected quarterfinal between “Caroline and Serena,” bank on Azarenka playing spoiler.

 

Follow Jane on Twitter @downthetee!

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About Jane Voigt (89 Articles)
Jane Voigt is a recognized tennis journalist who has covered the pro game for over 12 years. She created and owns DownTheTee.com, and has contributed to TennisGrandstand.com, WorldTennisMagazine,com, TennisWeek.com, Tennis Week Magazine, TennisServer.com, and Tennis.com.

6 Comments on Overnight Upset: Wozniacki Out to Azarenka

  1. The whole premise of this article is flawed. This wasn’t an upset. There was no assumption Caro should have won.

    Since the draw came out tennis fans had eyed the possible encounter as one to watch, not because we all thought Caro would serve a beatdown, but because we expected it to be a competitive tussle between two great players, with the added unpredictability of whether or not Vika could shake off her post-injury rust.

    The match was pretty much a coin toss as to who would win. The world’s bookies averaged-out at odds of 1.72 for Caro and 2.08 for Vika, which is roughly 55%-45% in favour of Caro. The only way it would have been an upset would be if either of them had walked it. For all Caros improvement last year Vika remains the better player – she’s top 5, just without the top 5 ranking.

    I would also take issue with you saying that the head-to-head favoured Caro.Take out a walkover, a retirement after 3 games and an exhibition and they’ve only played one competitive match since 2010, which Vika won. Truth is the head-to-head few real clues.

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    • Given Wozniacki’s relative dominance on hard courts since last summer, and combine that with Azarenka’s significant lack of match play, I would argue that Wozniacki had every reason to believe she should have won, which is what the article says.

      As for the term “upset,” the difference in ranking alone is sufficient to deem the result as such.

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      • I think Wozniacki would have gone into the match thinking she *could* win it, but it would have been extraordinarily hubristic of her to think she *should* win it.

        Regardless of the injury you don’t step onto court with the woman who won 2 of the last 3 Australian Opens with that mindset. Even Serena wouldn’t do that. You have to go into that match keeping in mind that yes, Vika’s been injured and her rustiness may afford you opportunities, but at some point she’s more than likely to return to form and it could be that match in which it happens.

        The term ‘upset’ really isn’t justified by the ranking difference. Hell, I’m guilty of using it myself on TennisGrrrl in such situations, but we all know that that ranking difference comes with a huge asterisk.

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  2. I think Ana Ivanovic’s loss to Lucie Hradecka was an upset. I think Carina Witthoeft’s defeat of Carla Suarez Navarro was an upset. Why? Because of expectations and, as David mentioned, the difference in ranking. Azarenka may be a better player than Wozniacki, given the trophy set, but the head of steam Caroline had coming in to Oz neutralizes that comparison. One last item, Azarenka has 17 career WTA titles and turned pro in 2003. Wozniacki, on the other hand, has 22. She came on the scene in 2005.

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    • “neutralizes” is the key word in your reply. It levels the playing field, it doesn’t give caro a clear advantage in that match.

      One last item back ‘atcha. Vika has won 9 titles since 2012 (inc 2 Australian Opens), Caro has won 4.

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  3. It wasn’t really an upset. Remember Vika’s ranking is only low because she was injured for much of 2014. A fully fit Vika would still be top 10 at least – probably top 5.

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