Caroline Wozniacki: A great Dane
Part of article: http://www.tennishead.net/prozone/ho...19/great-dane/
“I just saw it as an opportunity to show the world who I am, that I can play,” Wozniacki tells Tennishead casually, like taking the women’s tour by storm as a teenager is no big deal. “I had to start from the beginning again, and I really found that fun to just go out and think that every match I win is a big plus. If I lost a match it was fine, and if I won it was great, so step-by-step I came up the rankings.” As well as her refreshingly relaxed approach to playing tennis, she’s proved that she also has the weapons and mental toughness to rely on when the opportunities come along in big matches. “Senior players are more consistent and hit harder, but think a bit better than the juniors,” she explains. “They take the first opportunity that they have, not the second or third; if they have one chance they take it. I think mentally I’m pretty sharp. I don’t give up.”
That winning mentality is probably in her genes. With her dad, Piotr, a Pole who played pro football in Denmark, mum Anna who played volleyball for Poland and an older brother, Patrik, who’s an amateur footballer back home in Denmark she grew up in a pretty competitive environment, something that used to surface when she played soccer herself as a kid. “I’m really competitive so if I’m not better than the others I don’t want to play any more,” she says matter of factly. Her father has had a hand in her tennis since she began playing aged seven and her parents still travel on the tour, accompanied by recent addition to her entourage, Swedish coach Henrik Holm, a former top 20 player himself who is employed by the Danish tennis federation. Internet rumours in February suggested Jimmy Connors was being lined up to help with her game too. “I did all different kinds of sports [when I was younger]… I don’t think there’s a sport that I haven’t tried!” she admits. “And then suddenly I played tennis a little bit, and no one wanted to play with me because I was too bad.
“I just wanted to show the whole world that I wasn’t bad. I was playing against the wall for hours each day and I thought it was fun. And then one day my dad took me on the court and he wanted to practice with me and that’s how it started. And I got better than my parents, better than my brother, and I made some small goals and I achieved them and I wanted to become better and better.”
As well as improving her singles ranking, the teenager says she is determined to make sure she makes her Olympic debut in 2008 when the Games visit Beijing in August. “It’s a main goal for me because the Olympics is only every fourth year, and it’s a great achievement to go there and play and fight for some medals.”Success at the Olympics would guarantee her serious superstar status back home in Denmark. Even before her Australian Open exploits, the Danes were talking about her becoming their biggest sports star of all time – no mean feat in a football-obsessed country that has churned out greats such as Michael and Brian Laudrup, legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, as well as Tour de France cyclists Bjarne Riis and Michael Rasmussen.
Major sponsors haven’t been slow in recognising her appeal. The logos of Babolat, adidas, Danish financial services group Nordea, JBJ Group, Sony Ericsson and Danish travel insurance company Europæiske Rejseforsikring A/S adorn her personal website, she’s already appeared on talk shows back home and has shot two TV commercials for Sony Ericsson and Europæiske.
Is she bothered by the attention? Not a bit. “Everyone knows me in Denmark now. If I go outside the door everyone wants autographs and are talking, but I like it – it’s fun. It feels good.” Like any authentic sports superstar, she now lives in Monte Carlo, having moved to the, ahem, tax-free principality in January 2007. It’s obvious Denmark is still close to her heart, though, (“It’s beautiful, with nice people,” she says, but “a little bit too rainy”) and confesses that being the only Dane on the WTA tour gets lonely at times. “Sometimes it is, we have some guys that are playing, but no girls, and so it is hard because you want to compete with someone positively and you want to have someone to talk to as well… [I miss] some of my friends that are at home, and my brother who is there and playing soccer, and I miss the atmosphere.”
Maintaining contact with all things Denmark is helped by the fact that Caroline is still a student, dedicated to completing her schoolwork by mixing tennis with long distance learning. “It’s important to get an education in case something happens,” she explains. It’s a mature approach to life for a 17-year-old, but something tells us she won’t be needing her geography, history or algebra any time soon. Someone who knows a thing or two about being a teenage prodigy, Martina Hingis, feels the same – and expects big things. “Caroline is a strong up and coming player with a lot of potential,” she said last year. “She just needs to keep on going with what she’s doing. She’s going in the right direction. I think she is very talented and can go a long way.”
Tennishead says: Watch out for Wozniacki!