Caroline Wozniacki: Talk of the tour

She makes her debut in the elite end-of-season finale next week. But the girl who can speak six languages and is eager to do a Yale business degree is also turning heads on the catwalk
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The Independent Online

Caroline Wozniacki might feel a little uncomfortable when she arrives in Doha for next week's Sony Ericsson Championships. It will not be a question of nerves on her first appearance in the elite end-of-season finale so much as the fact that Qatar is one of the few stopovers on the women's tour where the 19-year-old Dane might have trouble conversing with the locals.

Last month's US Open finalist is a natural linguist. Polish is the first language at home, her parents having moved to Denmark when her father, a professional footballer, joined Odense in the late 1980s, but in most other respects Wozniacki has been brought up as a Dane. She learned French and English at school – her English, which is given a regular workout on the tour, is all but word-perfect – while family holidays quickly helped her to develop an understanding of Russian.

"My Dad had a lot of friends and business interests in Russia," Wozniacki explained. "When we went on holiday to Russia when I was younger we spent time with my Dad's friends and their families. The kids only spoke Russian, so I had to learn to communicate with them.

"I think it's much easier to learn languages when you're younger. You're also less afraid to use them. When you get older you think about it 100 times in your head before you say something." Five languages, nevertheless, was not good enough. "I'm trying to learn Spanish at the moment," Wozniacki said. "I have a lot of Spanish friends and I like going to Spain. It's also a really international language, so it's a good one to know.

"For me it's easy to learn new languages. I find that the more languages you speak the easier it is to learn a new one because so many words are similar."

The words "game, set and match Wozniacki" have been among the most familiar on the women's circuit this year. The world No 6 has played more than anyone and went into this week's Luxembourg Open, her last tournament before the season's finale, having won 65 of her 86 matches since opening her campaign in New Zealand in January. The next most active players have been Flavia Pennetta (55 wins from 78 matches at the start of this week), Dinara Safina (55 wins from 70 matches) and Elena Dementieva (54 wins from 72 matches).

Along the way Wozniacki has won three singles titles – plus one in doubles – and $2,069,825 (£1.27m) in prize money, trebling her career earnings. Her run to the final of the US Open, which she lost to Kim Clijsters, reinforced the view that there is plenty more to come from the Dane. Although she lacks the big shots of some of her major rivals, she is an outstanding athlete and a player who thinks about her game.

Given her hectic schedule you would imagine that Wozniacki would have little time for anything other than tennis, but she is hoping to enrol on an online course next year at Yale University. "I'd like to get some kind of degree in business and management," she said. "I'm hoping that I can study mostly online, but if I have to do the exams there I would and if I needed to go into the school for some classes I would do that as well. I'm thinking about life after tennis, but I also think it's good to have something to occupy your mind apart from tennis. I've always enjoyed studying – and feel smarter after I've done something like that! I spend a lot of time on my tennis, but you also have a lot of free time where you just sit in your hotel room. So rather than watching a movie I'd be doing some homework instead."

With Yale in mind, Wozniacki has been looking at properties to buy in New York. "I'm not 100 per cent decided yet," she said. "I'm still looking around and trying to find the best offers. I wouldn't be in New York for many weeks of the year, but I thought buying a property there would help me if I spend some time at Yale, which isn't far from the city. I like New York. It's a great city and it's not too far from Europe either."

Last month's US Open also offered the chance of some serious shopping in the Big Apple, particularly with a runner-up's cheque for $800,000 in her pocket. Did she treat herself to something special? "I didn't actually buy anything for myself. I went shopping, but I bought a lot of things for my brother, a few things for my mum, and a watch for my dad. I bought little presents for everyone around me, but I didn't buy anything for myself.

"I don't spend any more on clothes these days than I have in the past. I like to find nice things and to look at clothes, but if there's something really expensive I always think twice. I only buy clothes that I really, really like." What is the most expensive item she has purchased? "I bought a Louis Vuitton bag for $3,000 in Australia. I use it all the time."

While Wozniacki may be restrained with her shopping, sponsors believe she can persuade others to part with their cash. With her striking good looks, the Dane is increasingly in demand within the fashion industry. In the summer she became the global face of a range of clothing designed by Stella McCartney for Adidas, while in the week after the US Open she was a high profile guest at New York Fashion Week, after which she had lunch with Anna Wintour, the highly influential US editor-in-chief of Vogue and a good friend of Roger Federer.

"She had watched me play and wanted to have a chat," Wozniacki said. "I often look at the magazines when I'm flying and it was really cool to meet her. She's such an important person in fashion." Had there been a promise of a future appearance in Vogue? "She didn't say that but I hope it might happen one day."

Wozniacki is relishing the opportunities that fame is opening up for her – she particularly enjoyed meeting David Beckham and other LA Galaxy players in the summer – but insists there is no danger of off-court activities affecting her sport. "Tennis is the most important thing," she said. "If I do well on court then everything else is just a bonus. I always want to be the best, so I work hard." Qualifying for the elite eight-strong field for the Sony Ericsson Championships was a major goal at the start of the season, but her main ambition is to win Wimbledon. "I love all the traditions," she said. "I love the fact that we play on grass and that everyone has to play in white. When I was growing up, Wimbledon was always the tournament that was shown most on TV. I won junior Wimbledon and it's always been the tournament that I would like to win the most."

Suave and volley: Why tennis and fashion make a great match

The rise and fall of baseline hemlines is a constant source of fascination for the fashion crowd. Tennis players are the only sports stars who look like they're wearing real clothes, as proved by Stella McCartney's range for which Caroline Wozniacki is the face, so no wonder the cognoscenti get excited: no dodgy colour combos, no helmets or clown gloves, and mini-skirts are standard issue.

From Serena Williams' black lycra catsuit at the 2002 US Open (not to mention her knee-high boots) to Maria Sharapova's 18 carat gold Tiffany earrings, tennis is easily the best dressed sport. Witness Roger Federer's spiffy outfits with his own crest and his blossoming friendship with Vogue editor Anna Wintour, whom he accompanied to fashion shows in Milan last month.

Maybe it's because of tennis' traditional flirtation with the upper classes that it's the one sport that captures the fashionable imagination. After all, putting on your whites for a match at the country estate is a far cry from playing footie in the park.

Either way, Lacoste, Adidas and Fred Perry, among many, recognise the "style-ability" of the tennis kit, and the ease of transition from clay and grass to pavement and shopping mall makes it a great commercial option for most sportswear labels.

Harriet Walker

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Matches played by Caroline Wozniacki in 2009, the most of any women's singles competitor.

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