One day after No. 3 seed Simona Halep fell early at the French Open, No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki suffered a similar fate, falling in her second straight Grand Slam second round after reaching the US Open final. Much like the Romanian yesterday, the Dane crashed out against a truly troublesome opponent in Germany’s Julia Goerges.
Once again, the red clay in Paris just hasn’t brought the success she was aiming for.
When Caroline Wozniacki began her clay court season in Stuttgart, she was just points from capturing her biggest title in over a year — reaching the final by defeating solid dirt ballers like Carla Suarez Navarro and Simona Halep in the process — but ultimately lost to Angelique Kerber in the championship match. Still, it was a strong showing — welcome, even — on what has often been considered the 24-year-old’s worst surface. But on an overcast Thursday morning some six weeks later, the former No. 1 looked a long way from the player that reached the finals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Though the Dane had started strong with five break points in Julia Goerges’ first service game, she would not capitalize until the sixth to go up 3-1. Afterwards, however, the World No. 72 began to find her stride, winning five of the last six games to capture the opener. In her post-match press conference, as reported by the WTA, the German explained why she seems to be such a tough match up for Wozniacki.
“I don’t play the typical women’s game on clay,” Goerges said. “I play a little bit more spin, a little bit higher over the net than some of the other girls…If you give her different balls, it’s tougher for her to bring the ball back with good quality. So you really have to mix it up a lot. That’s what I’ve always tried to do against her.”
For the Dane, the conditions in Paris continue to be an issue. Much like in some of the previous years, the clay plays slowly during the first week — particularly on Court Philippe Chatrier — and there isn’t enough weight on her shots to travel through the court, unlike in the quicker indoor conditions of Stuttgart or the altitude of Madrid.
When she takes to red clay — any red clay — against Goerges, however, none of that seems to matter. The German now leads Wozniacki 3-0 in their head-to-head on clay, and leveled the overall head-to-head at 4-4.
“There are just some players who are a tough match-up for you, no matter the rankings, and some of them are easy match-ups no matter the rankings,” Wozniacki said in post-match press to the WTA. “Obviously, Julia has given me trouble in the past and she gave me trouble again today. So that kind of sucks.”
Wozniacki’s words also reinforced Goerges’ explanation that the German’s game makes her feel like she isn’t really playing up to her best. Things got tight at the end of the second set when both women traded breaks — including when Wozniacki broke the German’s serve to force a tiebreak — but ultimately, the former Top 20 player prevailed in the tiebreak to capture a straight set win over the No. 5 seed and didn’t get rattled when she failed to serve out the match.
Much like Australia, when she defeated No. 32 seed Belinda Bencic and took advantage of Ana Ivanovic’s early exit to reach the fourth round, Goerges broke her section of the draw open and will next face unseeded American Irina Falconi — a great opportunity for both women to make the fourth round in Paris for the first time.
For Wozniacki, it was another short stint to Paris and questions will arise whether Stuttgart has been the exception to what has been a somewhat average season. Over the course of the next few months, she’ll have to defend the majority of her ranking points — but at least it will be on surfaces that had yielded good results for her in 2014.
What did you make of Wozniacki’s early exit in Paris? Will she be able to turn around her Slam results at Wimbledon and the US Open? Sound off in the comments!