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Sports Then and Now

Caroline Wozniacki Steals the Show

Posted on September 11, 2009 by JA Allen

Caroline Wozniacki is in the U.S. Open Semifinals for the first time in her career.

Caroline Wozniacki is in the U.S. Open Semifinals for the first time in her career.

Caroline Wozniacki sent Cinderella packing without her glass slippers after smashing her magic pumpkin.  She not only dispatched the fairy-tale princess, Melanie Oudin, she did it without pity, smiling all the way to the semifinals of the U.S. Open.  And what a smile she has.

She will face another teenager, Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, who, unseeded and at age 19, has made her way quietly through to the semifinals after taking out Kateryna Bondarenko, 7-5, 6-4.

Wozniacki, with quiet determination, upstaged the media darling, Oudin, taking the first set 6-2, followed by an identical 6-2 in the second set.  Oudin devastated previous competitors with a great inside-out forehand and the ability to run well.

Wozniacki’s game plan emphasized keeping the ball on Oudin’s backhand side as much as possible and forcing her to scramble in reaching her forehand side.

The great Dane, so called in the press, remained steadfast in her quest to win this match by concentrating her weapons, utilizing prevent defense and tactical placement.  Wozniacki did not let the stage or the moment unnerve her.  Under the lights of Arthur Ashe, she commandeered the spotlight and never let Oudin into the match.

Caroline Wozniacki ended the Cinderella run of Melanie Oudin in the U.S. Open Quarterfinals.

Caroline Wozniacki ended the Cinderella run of Melanie Oudin in the U.S. Open Quarterfinals.

Will Win If…

On Friday, Wozniacki will face Wickmayer in one semifinal contest.  For the Dane, facing the young Belgian woman will literally be a tall order because while Oudin stood 5’6″, Wickmayer is 6’0″.  Her extended wingspan means greater reach.

Athletically built, the Belgian tries to dominate with her two-handed backhand and her power.  She has a strong serve.  As a doubles player, Wickmayer has also shown dexterity at the net.

But with her slower and generally suspect footwork, the advantage goes to Wozniacki who, as a counter-puncher and a defensive specialist, should have no difficulty eliminating the often erratic Belgian from the draw.

Seeded No. 50 in the world, Wickmayer has advanced to a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time in her life.

Caroline Wozniacki started out the year ranked No. 12.  She is currently ranked world No. 8 but is seeded ninth at the U.S. Open.  Utilizing a two-handed backhand, Wozniacki is right handed.  Her rise into the top ten has been slow but steady.

Wozniacki’s consistency will win the day with Wickmayer self-destructing under the pressure of the moment.  The occasion will undoubtedly be more difficult for Wickmayer to handle than for Wozniacki.  The great Dane is more accustomed to finals and to the big stage, although her ability to advance at the majors has been questioned until this U.S. Open.

Wozniacki employs spin and placement and defensive prowess to frustrate her competitors whose impatience usually proves to be their undoing.  She has dogged determination and explosive ground strokes when required.  Her net play is definitely improving.

Will Lose If…

Any player can lose.  That is the nature of competition.  But if you consider the theories of probability, then Wozniacki, the favorite, should win this contest.  Both the Dane and Wickmayer are in their first grand slam semifinal.  They have never played each other on the professional level prior to this upcoming match.  It is a major accomplishment that they made it this far.

If Wozniacki fails to serve well, her second serve is suspect.  That might present major problems in the Dane’s game plan.  If Wickmayer serves lights out and Wozniacki overreacts and panics, then Wickmayer might pull out a victory.

But you win with what got you there, and Wozniacki got to the semifinals by playing intelligent and persistent tennis.  These same ingredients should see her into the final on Saturday to face the winner of the Kim Clijsters vs. Serena Williams semifinal contest.


Crowd support should bolster the pretty blonde Dane.  But they might get behind Wickmayer if she falls behind.  Wozniacki was able to shut out the crowd while playing Oudin, so she should survive even it the New York crowd turns on her.

With the exception of Wozniacki, who is seed No. 9, the top half of the draw was decimated of seeded players since the quarterfinals—thanks to Oudin and these teenagers.

Wozniacki and Wickmayer are both relatively unknown and playing on such a big stage.  It could be a terrific match and could produce a potential first-time Slam winner.

My Call

Wozniacki in straight sets.

JA Allen is a regular contributor to Sports Then and Now.

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