Dubai: Wozniacki d. Kuznetsova

Sunday, February 20, 2011 /by

Cw It’s easy to forget that Svetlana Kuznetsova has the very thing—two of them, in fact—that many can’t forget Caroline Wozniacki doesn’t have.

Yet Kuznetsova never walked around Dubai toting a big, floral number, because as far as I know they don’t make big, floral 2s. Two-time Grand Slam singles champion Kuznetsova has never been ranked higher than No. 2; she’s the only active multiple major winner never to be ranked No. 1. So in keeping with current tennis lingo, some of which you likely know I find funny (and not funny ha-ha), you might say the Slam-less No. 1 took on the Slam-full No. 2. 

The former won 6-1, 6-3, and it was too often too effortless. Lucky or not, they both now own the same number of singles titles—13. Wozniacki won today mainly because she played well, not because Kuznetsova played badly.

Which isn’t to say Kuznetsova didn’t play badly; she did on more than a few occasions. She played more defensively than she can and should, made too many errors and held serve just once. Kuznetsova actually apologized to her fans during the trophy ceremony.

Wozniacki did the stuff she’s known for, moving, defending and staying in the point until her opponent made an error or she could hit a winner. What’s remarkable is how often and how well she did the stuff she’s not known for. In the first set, especially, she hugged the baseline, tried to get cozy with the net and took several balls out of the air to hit winners. Halfway through the second set, both had hit the same number of winners, but Kuznetsova had nearly three times as many errors. Wozniacki played less offensively in the second set, but overall, Eurosport commentator was right to call this “a new brand of aggressive tennis” for Wozniacki.

Going into this final, both women had the same first-serve percentage (70 percent), but Wozniacki had the better stats in just about every other category. Interestingly, neither was among the 10 players who hit the most aces this week. (Li Na hit more aces in one match—9—than either of them hit all tournament.)

If you know just one thing about Dubai it’s that Wozniacki will be No. 1 again on Monday. She’s expected to hold the ranking for at least four weeks (through March 20). That means she is or will have been No. 1 longer than Tracy Austin, Kim Clijsters, Jelena Jankovic, Jennifer Capriati, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, Venus Williams and Evonne Goolagong.

It also means we’ll hear more of the same No. 1 questions but, if Wozniacki’s last response in her last Dubai presser is anything to go by, perhaps some new No. 1 responses. You’ll want to hear this one.

Q. Do you think it’s unfair when people criticize you or when people talk your game and they say, She gets lots of balls back, but she hasn’t got a big weapon? You’ve got to No. 1 in the world. Do you think that’s unfair when you hear people say that?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Um, well, if I don’t have a weapon, then what do the others have? Since I’m No. 1, I must do something right. I think there’re not actually criticizing me. I think the other players should be offended.

And we thought Kuznetsova was the quote machine! Anyway, I’m not sure what to make of the response. I have some thoughts, but I’ll save them for another day. For now, in the comments, I’d like to hear your thoughts on both this reply and Wozniacki’s prospects for winning a Slam this year. Go.

—Bobby Chintapalli

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