Tennis wonderchild grows up
After securing a quarterfinal spot in a WTA tournament last week, Caroline Wozniacki stands poised to serve up the next move in her promising career
Not many 15 year-olds can unabashedly state they want 'to be number one in the world' and be taken seriously by grown-ups.
But as young tennis star Caroline Wozniacki (pronounced: Vosniaski) secured her first victory on the professional tennis circuit last week, her dream of appearing at Wimbledon and the US Open appeared a few steps closer to reality.
First she overcame Kristina Brandi in the first round of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis, USA. Then she overpowered Ashley Harkleroad in straight sets before being stopped by Sofia Arvidsson in the quarterfinals.
Coach Morten Christensen was not surprised by Caroline's success.
'We've prepared an extra amount this week. For the first time she has practiced with other players. Practicing against them has given her faith that she can make things happen in real matches,' he said. 'But it's also about maturity. She's grown mentally with the task.'
Caroline's skill and passion for the game can be attributed to a combination of raw talent and focused development. Her parents, who immigrated from Poland in the late 1980s, are both highly trained athletes. Mother Anna played volleyball for the Polish national team, while father Piotr played professional football.
The parents shared their enthusiasm for sports with Caroline and her older brother Patrik. First they were sent to gymnastics, and when Patrik began playing football, Caroline tagged along.
'Caroline always wanted to do the same things as her big brother,' Piotr told monthly magazine Ud & Se last year when the country first began to hear about the wonderchild who was taking the tennis world by storm.
So when Patrik began playing tennis, Caroline quickly picked up a racquet, too. Father Piotr told the older brother to let his little sister win a few matches once in awhile, but by the time Caroline was nine, she could easily defeat her sporty sibling.
Piotr realised that Caroline had a special talent.
He began coaching his daughter with long afternoon training sessions at the local tennis club.
'I could sense that some members looked strangely at us when we were out there for such a long time, but she wanted to. She became unhappy if I said stop after an hour and a half. There was nothing to do,' he said. 'But I also had a great time. How many parents can be with their children four to five hours a day?'
Years of hard work with early morning jogs and practice sessions before school have begun to pay off for Caroline. Her wins in Memphis secured her 32 points on the WTA circuit and boosted her ranking to 457.
Top coaches such as Bob Brett and Walt Landers predict that Caroline has what it takes to go all the way. Landers has been impressed by her technique, desire, and aggression, coupled with her unquenchable appetite to always learn more. It's only a matter of time before Caroline takes on the gruelling professional circuit dominated by Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, and Lindsay Davenport.
Coach Morten Christensen agrees.
'There are a number of things that have to fall into place, if she is going to make it to the top,' said Christensen. 'Her advantage is that she has the raw ingredients for it. First and foremost nerves of steel. That is decisive if you are going to take that extra step,' he said.
Caroline demonstrated her winning spirit in front of 5,000 peole at the Mayor's Tournament in Osaka, Japan. After falling behind 0-3 in the first set, Caroline dug in her heels and proved her mettle.
'Things began to move. I felt like I was flying. People began to clap, and they yelled my name: Come on, Caroline. Come on Denmark,' she said.
Still a child
Caroline's strong family ties help her stay grounded as her career blossoms. Father Piotr travels with her to most of her tournaments, while her brother and mother welcome her home when she returns with her latest lessons in the game of tennis.
'Caroline is a happy girl. She's a very positive person. That helps her,' said mother Anna. 'Not everybody has such a positive attitude as she does. But she should never feel pressure. She needs to pressure herself, but we need to help her find her limit. It needs to be both fun and serious otherwise it can't be done. She's still a child.'