Thursday, December 27, 2012

Caroline Wozniacki's Futureless road to the top

My translations of Anders Haahr Rasmussen's "Én bold ad gangen" continue with his description of Caro's climb through the rankings. Page 35 ff.

Caroline Wozniacki has never had to worry about reserving airline tickets or practise courts. Her father, Piotr Wozniacki, has always taken care of the practical matters. Neither has Wozniacki ever played a Futures tournament. She's one of the very few players to basically jump over that part of a tennis career. One could say that she started her run at an early age and jumped directly into the big tournaments.

It happened more or less like this:

Back in 1996 Anna and Piotr Wozniacki took their daughter, aged six, to the Køge Tennis Club, where she was allowed to hit against the practice wall while her parents played against each other. She liked that, little Caroline Wozniacki, and she started to practise with the other tots.

When she was seven, Piotr Wozniacki hired a professional private coach for her for the first time. They practised two hours twice a week, apart from club practice. This developed slowly into the routine Caroline Wozniacki had at age 11, where she had a tennis free day on Tuesday, but otherwise played every day, often several times a day, with interval and quickness training on the side. All in all, she trained at least 20 hours a week.

And the results were not long in coming. By the age of 10, Wozniacki was three-time Danish champion for girls under 12. Before long, it wasn't a question of her being the best in her age group. Wozniacki was way too good for that. It was a question of being the best period.

When she was in grade 5, she was the best tennis player in Køge, and a year later the 12 year-old Wozniacki was among the eight best in Denmark when she reached the quarter finals at the Danish senior championships. The family moved to Farum to be closer to the Elite Centre, where Wozniacki now spent 30 hours a week.She began playing international junior tournaments against Europe's best under 18's. She beat them and, at 14 -- the same year she became the youngest Danish champion ever --she travelled to Japan and won one of the world's biggest tournaments, the World Super Junior Tennis Championships i Osaka.

That sort of thing attracts attention. And not just from the tournament organisers of junior or Futures tournaments, but from the organiser of the big tournaments, the WTA tournaments, where the top ranked players play. Those tournaments liked to present child stars, tomorrow's champions, and give them a chance to prove themselves against the established adults, maybe even be the breakthrough tournament for them.

And that's how it happened that Caroline Wozniacki, just turned 15 and unranked, got wild cards to WTA tournaments, first in Cincinnati, then Stockholm and then Memphis. There were 20 times the money and 10 times as many ranking points to be won than in Västerås, Tampere or Miskolc.

Wozniacki didn't even have to win a match to get a ranking, but, of course, she did anyway. She won two in Memphis and got 30 points and took a giant step into the world rankings. Her senior career had begun. Before 2007 was over, she was number 237.

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