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Tennis Fool
Jan 24th, 2011, 03:30 AM
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January 23, 2011, 1:47 pm Analysis: How Wozniacki Keeps Winning

By GEOFF MACDONALD (http://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/author/geoff-macdonald/) Caroline Wozniacki wins in such a workmanlike, undramatic way that many tennis observers overlook what she does do well. She wears down her opponents with consistency, calm, and a complete understanding of what she can and can’t do on a tennis court. If playing a tennis match is akin to managing money, Wozniacki would earn you a solid return, year in and year out, but she would never stand out.

For this reason, her No. 1 ranking (http://www.wtatour.com/page/RankingsSingles/0,,12781%7E0%7E1%7E100,00.html) is viewed as somewhat unearned. She has yet to win a Grand Slam, and many tennis observers point to her solid, unflashy gamestyle as proof that she’s too defensive, too much of a counterpuncher, to ever step up and win a major. When I watch Wozniacki play, I’m reminded of another world No. 1, Mats Wilander, who won the French Open at 17, then stepped back and developed a more complete game to win at Flushing Meadow on hard courts.

Back in the day,at the old Australian Open on the slippery grass at Kooyong, Wilander came through with great returning and even some serve and volley to win. Like Wozniacki, Mats Wilander won matches without a real weapon. His strength — and hers — was that he had no weaknesses. Early on, his serve lacked weight and he rarely attacked. To remedy this, he and his fellow Swede Joachim Nystrom, set out to learn how to play doubles. At first, the Swedes were considered a good draw, as they lacked the proper instincts and could not volley well. A few years later they won Wimbledon.

Wozniacki plays a lot like Wilander. Jay Berger once said that the best shot on the men’s tour was Wilander’s brain, and a similar compliment could be said today about Wozniacki. She wins with good movement and anticipation, unwavering discipline in her shot selection, and a steady, phlegmatic demeanonor. Like Wilander, her favorite shot to pull the trigger on is the down the line backhand. It’s her strong left jab to counter her opponent’s huge roundhouse swings. Against Dominique Cibulkova, Wozniacki withstood a blitzkrieg of huge forehands, staying with her game even when Cibulkova was hitting her off of the court. She rode out the storm, defended and kept the ball in play, and in the end won in straight sets (http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/scores/stats/day10/2301ms.html).

On Sunday, playing Anastasija Sevastova, Wozniacki again won in straight sets (http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/scores/stats/day12/2401ms.html) against an opponent who, for a time, looked capable of taking a set. But Wozniacki won by taking anything Sepostava would give her. A way to watch a great player is to note how often the player wins what I call unremarkable points.

Back to the money metaphor: if each point is a hundred dollars, watch how often Wozniacki wins on a missed service return, a double fault, a loose error early in the point. Yes, she will lose the fast and furious exchange when her opponent hits a winner, but watch her collect the points that will never make a highlight film. Remember, they are all worth a hundred dollars. Watch Wozniacki win like the house at a casino. Nadal is also adept at picking up free points, while giving away very few.

By playing within herself, by not overreaching with her shots, Wozniacki is often accused of not playing to win. Andy Roddick, especially when he locks down and grinds from the backcourt, faces similar criticism. But in adopting that style, both players make themselves hard to beat. Roddick, despite his loss on Sunday, has his superb serve to get him through, but Wozniacki has a first class temperament to handle the rough moments of a match. She may not win every time, but she makes sure that her opponent earns every single point.

http://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/analysis-how-wozniacki-keeps-winning/?pagemode=print




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AcesHigh
Jan 24th, 2011, 03:42 AM
I like the article...and I usually don't read NYT when they write on tennis.

Ralph214
Jan 24th, 2011, 04:04 AM
I have to agree with the article ...

VeeJJ
Jan 24th, 2011, 04:16 AM
agreed

tkutsaar
Jan 24th, 2011, 04:25 AM
Seems like a very valid article. I have been mystified by those who criticize Caroline’s play; proclaiming her style to be boring. To me seeing a player able to return a shot that would be a winner against most other players is just as exciting if not more so than a winner. And that is what I enjoy when I see Caroline play.

Josh.
Jan 24th, 2011, 05:04 AM
Agreed. She does need to develop her game more: Especially her forehand and volleys/transition game.

azinna
Jan 24th, 2011, 05:23 AM
Great that the media is now writing with more subtlety and showing fans why Caro is so good. What remains, though, is a slam win. Once that happens, the comparisons to Wilander -- who did win at 17 -- will seem more apt. If it's in a week, all the better.

Smitten
Jan 24th, 2011, 05:26 AM
I agree with the basis of the article, but Wilander's true counterpart is Hingis down to the very T.

theFutureisNow
Jan 24th, 2011, 05:50 AM
I don't think this is that great of an article. It only makes a few claims, and doesn't back them up with details.

-She has no weaknesses. What about her forehand? She has been beaten enough that you can hardly say Wozniacki's game has no weaknesses.
-Good movement and anticipation, good shot selection. These are way too vague to tell us anything. Is her shot selection any more balanced than anyone else's, or does she just happen to commit less errors? Are these things even measurable, or are they just platitudes that get pulled out when you can't figure out how else someone is winning?
-her favorite shot to pull the trigger on is the down the line backhand. Great. So wouldn't this shot produce winners, and why doesn't she have any?

This article avoids the obvious question- is this strategy good enough to beat the top players? So far the answer seems to be no.

They also could have pointed out that slow and steady is a bad strategy in tennis if you want to make the big money. You tend to get the most money(and endorsement money) if you win slams, not if you reach the #1 ranking.

slnbb
Jan 24th, 2011, 06:04 AM
I don't think this is that great of an article. It only makes a few claims, and doesn't back them up with details.

-She has no weaknesses. What about her forehand? She has been beaten enough that you can hardly say Wozniacki's game has no weaknesses.
-Good movement and anticipation, good shot selection. These are way too vague to tell us anything. Is her shot selection any more balanced than anyone else's, or does she just happen to commit less errors? Are these things even measurable, or are they just platitudes that get pulled out when you can't figure out how else someone is winning?
-her favorite shot to pull the trigger on is the down the line backhand. Great. So wouldn't this shot produce winners, and why doesn't she have any?

This article avoids the obvious question- is this strategy good enough to beat the top players? So far the answer seems to be no.

They also could have pointed out that slow and steady is a bad strategy in tennis if you want to make the big money. You tend to get the most money(and endorsement money) if you win slams, not if you reach the #1 ranking.

agree.

Albireo
Jan 24th, 2011, 06:11 AM
Jesus, NYT, stick a crowbar in your wallet and get some copyediting.

bandabou
Jan 24th, 2011, 06:49 AM
Her game is what it is..this is her level. She has no extra gear. so if she runs into a hot player, she's a goner.

Mistress of Evil
Jan 24th, 2011, 07:07 AM
:yeah:

ranfurly
Jan 24th, 2011, 07:27 AM
Wozniacki to me is comparable too a Casino,

With her, you will never win the jackpot, but if you play your pokies right, stick too the 2cent machines (Aussies and Kiwis will know what I'm on about), you can be guaranteed to come out of it with no more than a solid effort, consistently playing for several hours and not giving away much.

Pops Maellard
Jan 24th, 2011, 08:33 AM
I stopped reading at 'no weaknesses'.

propi
Jan 24th, 2011, 08:43 AM
I actually like Caro's smooth way:yeah:
When at the other side of the net they fail to put 3 consecutive balls inside the court there's little you have to do :yeah:

kman
Jan 24th, 2011, 10:06 AM
Another spoke in the wheel of the hater wagon.

¤CharlDa¤
Jan 24th, 2011, 10:19 AM
Sepostova?

Overall, quite spot on though.

Slutiana
Jan 24th, 2011, 11:22 AM
Agreed. She does need to develop her game more: Especially her forehand and volleys/transition game.
Those volleys won't get much better. Too awkward and she lacks any natural touch or instincts at the net. Her volley technique is easily top 3 worst in the top 100.

Anyway, this article is really grasping at straws. Particularly the "no weaknesses" and the idea that she's a brainy player. She's just as smart as the next brainless ball basher, and her shot selection isn't particularly great. But her game doesn't require her to be either, really.
Thefutureisnow nailed the rest of it.

But I think it's time people just stopped stressing over it. She's not going to change (why would she? And if she did her results would probably only regress.) It is what it is. People should pay more attention to the champions and elite players slumping outside of the top 10. They're the only ones who can improve the tour.

goldenlox
Jan 24th, 2011, 11:48 AM
She's 20 and #1. Was in the USO SF, now AO QF.
It is what it is. She's the most successful young player right now, she's getting the endorsement deals, and her style of play is defense oriented.

Its possible a lot more players will be taught defense first, because it is a successful way of playing, if you know how to use your skillset effectively, as Caro does.

Prizeidiot
Jan 24th, 2011, 12:09 PM
She's 20 and #1. Was in the USO SF, now AO QF.
It is what it is. She's the most successful young player right now, she's getting the endorsement deals, and her style of play is defense oriented.

Its possible a lot more players will be taught defense first, because it is a successful way of playing, if you know how to use your skillset effectively, as Caro does.
I've always felt it's the other way around. Players who hit through the ball more can learn better shot selection as they mature. The problem with players who are less aggressive is that it will almost always be really hard for them to overcome the fear of making errors, especially in tight situations. The problem with Caroline's game at the moment is that it too often leaves the control of the match in the hands of her opponent, which is a major issue at the end of big tournaments when you will almost always come up against someone really hitting the ball well.

But I agree with the general gist of the article in that she doesn't get the respect she deserves for being able to play such disciplined tennis and winning the way she does. She plays at a high level all the time and puts the onus on the other player to beat her.

¤CharlDa¤
Jan 24th, 2011, 12:13 PM
Its possible a lot more players will be taught defense first, because it is a successful way of playing, if you know how to use your skillset effectively, as Caro does.

Nadal is a good example of that. He was a pure defense player when he came out, and used all the tools he got to get more agressive and even win on surfaces no one expected him to be able to do well.

The generation right before Caro, the Ivanovic-Vaidisova-Sharapova, was all about pure attack from the get-go, which creates amazing tennis when on, but as we have seen from the lack of consistency of those players, not necessary anything sustainable on a long period. I definitely think we will see more players coming out with such a mindset in the future. It's then up to them to evolve with the tools they got and find ways to create bigger weapons. Caro is on the way to doing it, and winning the amount of Premiers she did in the second half of 2010 is proving that she is evolving.

The one thing people seem not to understand is that those players don't play tennis for us, the fans. They don't play to create a superb show for the crowd: they want to win. And winning a point on a UE or on a winner, in the end, is winning a point. While I do understand the people saying that someone like Caro isn't the greatest to watch, I really don't see how she can be so horrible for the tour. Actually, I think she will do wonders to the tour: she'll force players who 'feel' superior to raise their level and match up to what she is doing.

While comparing Hingis to Caro isn't necessarily a perfect comparison, Hingis received a lot of complaints on her game. In the end though, she helped creating possibly the greatest years on tour with the Williams Sisters, Davenport, JCap, the Belgians, the rise of the Russians, etc. They all had to clean their attacking games in order to beat Hingis, and they did.

goldenlox
Jan 24th, 2011, 12:18 PM
There are always going to be different styles. Caroline is bigger physically than a player people would expect to be defense oriented.
But its how you perform, more than the style.

Whitehead's Boy
Jan 24th, 2011, 01:08 PM
But I agree with the general gist of the article in that she doesn't get the respect she deserves

What "respect" is she supposed to get? There is no need to acknowledge she knows how to play tennis, otherwise there is no way she would have become number 1.

The fact is, what stands out right now is that we have a number 1 who can be very vulnerable depending on her opponent. It is what it is, and it's not the end of the world, but obviously people are going to talk about it! And it's much more notable than whatever we should "respect" her for.

Mynarco
Jan 24th, 2011, 01:14 PM
Wozniacki has no weaknesses? bitch please, even caro fans acknowledge her FH is woeful

goldenlox
Jan 24th, 2011, 01:16 PM
What "respect" is she supposed to get? There is no need to acknowledge she knows how to play tennis, otherwise there is no way she would have become number 1...She won 5 titles after Wimbledon, made the YEC final, she's been to the USO final & SF, now she's in AO QF. Still 20 until July.
Of course she deserves respect. What other young player is doing better?

Whitehead's Boy
Jan 24th, 2011, 01:26 PM
She won 5 titles after Wimbledon, made the YEC final, she's been to the USO final & SF, now she's in AO QF. Still 20 until July.
Of course she deserves respect. What other young player is doing better?

The question asked was what respect is she supposed to get (from the media), not the respect that she allegedly deserves. An open letter from Chris Evert? Media are not going to write articles praising her because she won 5 non-slam titles. It is not what stands out about her ATM.

Like I said, she is number 1 in the world. It doesn't even need to be acknowledged that she knows how to play tennis. Right now that is not what is notable about her.

Prizeidiot
Jan 24th, 2011, 01:33 PM
What "respect" is she supposed to get? There is no need to acknowledge she knows how to play tennis, otherwise there is no way she would have become number 1.

The fact is, what stands out right now is that we have a number 1 who can be very vulnerable depending on her opponent. It is what it is, and it's not the end of the world, but obviously people are going to talk about it! And it's much more notable than whatever we should "respect" her for.
I mean "respect" in the way all people should be respected. People don't have to shower her with praise for winning, but the fact is that she is good at what she does and that people feel the need to say she's killing the WTA, she's a pathetic pusher who hasn't earned her success, she's a boring person, etc is ridiculous.

Apoleb
Jan 24th, 2011, 01:57 PM
I don't like her game, but people really need to get over the crap that she's ruining the WTA with her game. If some of those famed aggressive players can't get past her, what does it say about them? Those nonathletic severely-limited-strategically aggressive baseliners are just as bad. I don't want to see another Sharapova/Ivanovic/Kvitova/Safarova/Razai type of player. I want to see a real athlete with some tennis flair, and she's no where to be seen. :sad::sad:

bandabou
Jan 24th, 2011, 02:04 PM
it's working..a la Murray. Still not convinced that this style is the right one to winning a major..but that can be answered by saturday, so stay tuned.

Tennis Fool
Jan 25th, 2011, 10:38 PM
What I find interesting about Woz is that her opponent has to bring something extra special to beat her.

moby
Jan 26th, 2011, 07:23 AM
What is Wozniacki's legacy for tennis fans and players though?

You will hear future players saying, I was inspired to play tennis because of Smartina Hingis and her beautiful courtcraft, I wanted to play and serve like Serena Williams when I was younger, I grew up idolising Justine Henin and her backhand.

Can you see anyone saying the same thing about Caro?
... "I wanted to keep balls in play like Caroline Wozniacki?"
... "I grew up wanting to hit my forehands and volleys like Caroline Wozniacki?"

bandabou
Jan 26th, 2011, 07:46 AM
What is Wozniacki's legacy for tennis fans and players though?

You will hear future players saying, I was inspired to play tennis because of Smartina Hingis and her beautiful courtcraft, I wanted to play and serve like Serena Williams when I was younger, I grew up idolising Justine Henin and her backhand.

Can you see anyone saying the same thing about Caro?
... "I wanted to keep balls in play like Caroline Wozniacki?"
... "I grew up wanting to hit my forehands and volleys like Caroline Wozniacki?"

This...exactly what I said in an earlier post.