Caroline Wozniacki’s private life may have been torn apart when Rory McIlroy called off their engagement earlier this summer but the 24-year-old Dane’s tennis has gone from strength to strength.
A crushing 6-0, 6-1 victory over Sara Errani here at the US Open sent Wozniacki through to her first Grand Slam semi-final for three years. Victory over the unseeded Chinese player, Peng Shuai, would take the world No11 into only her second Grand Slam final following her defeat by Belgium’s Kim Clijsters here in New York five years ago.
“It’s been a pretty up and down year for me,” Wozniacki said with a fair degree of understatement. “To be here in the semi-finals of the US Open once again is an incredible feeling. Definitely, hard work pays off. I’m here and I’m so happy.”
McIlroy ended his two-year relationship with Wozniacki in May, shortly after their wedding invitations had been sent out and just before the French Open. Wozniacki lost in the first round at Roland Garros, but after preparing for the grass-court season by joining Serena Williams for a beach holiday in Florida, she has hardly looked back.
Wozniacki reached the semi-finals at Eastbourne and the fourth round at Wimbledon, won her first title for nine months in Istanbul, made the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively at Montreal and Cincinnati, and has prospered again at her most successful Grand Slam tournament. After her defeat in the 2009 final here she reached the semi-finals in 2010 and 2011.
During her 67 weeks as world No1 Wozniacki grew used to criticism over her failure to win a Grand Slam title and her supposed over-reliance on her athleticism and her defensive abilities.
“I have proved people wrong so many times,” she said. “I was told when I was younger there was no chance I would make the top 100, top 50, top 30. Every time I have proved them wrong.”
As for the criticism of her game, Wozniacki said: “I just listen to myself and my coach. I always try to work hard and be better. You always try and add to your game. You have to, because everyone knows how you play. You have to keep playing better. I’m just happy I’m on my way up again and I’m playing well.”
Although Wozniacki lacks the power of some of the big hitters, she has played with admirable aggression here, taking the game to her opponents. The Dane has shown a fine touch at the net, while her athleticism keeps forcing her rivals to hit the extra ball.
Wozniacki struck 26 winners and won 57 points to Errani’s 26 as Italy’s world No 14 was outclassed. With Wozniacki hitting the ball consistently from the baseline, Errani tried to unsettle the Dane by attacking the net but succeeded only in prompting a succession of winning passing shots and lobs.
Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova reached her first Grand Slam singles semi-final by beating Belarusian Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-2 yesterday. Azarenka had suffered from food poisoning the previous day, which was evident in her lacklustre performance. Makarova will now meet the winner of last night’s meeting between the world No1 Williams and Flavia Pennetta.
Roger Federer is through to his 10th US Open quarter-final in the last 11 years.
The 33-year-old Swiss beat Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 late on Tuesday evening. He now plays France’s Gaël Monfils, who defeated Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6, 7-5.
Federer said Monfils had the potential to return to the world’s top 10. “He’s a great mover,” Federer said. “He’s got a wonderful serve, which nobody really talks about because of his athletic movement which stands out so much.”