No longer having to fend questions about her status as the women’s world No.1, Caroline Wozniacki is playing with a nothing-to-lose approach as she looks to rebuild her standing in the game’s elite.
The Dane was a beacon of consistency on No.1 Court against British wild-card Naomi Broady on Wednesday, running out a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 winner to reach the third round for the first time in three years at what has typically been her weakest of the four majors.
The No.16 seed’s 14 winners were seven fewer than her 6ft 2in opponent’s, but a measly two unforced errors against 25 was telling.
Despite the pressure of the No.1 ranking lifted from her shoulders, the Dane did not see a huge difference in being one of the hunters further back in the pack, as opposed to the hunted.
“Once you're out on the court, all you think about is what you're about to do. Obviously when you're No.1 in the world, everyone is trying to beat you, even gives it 110 per cent. It makes it tough,” she said. “But at the same time, you know, when you've been there, everyone knows that you're a great player, and everyone builds themself up mentally in a different way I think.”
Broady’s game-plan early on was clear. She would not be able to trade blows from the baseline with the ever-consistent Dane and had to choose her moment to go for broke.
Three single-handed backhand winners down the line and another crosscourt in her opening service game brought her home crowd to life, but ultimately told the story of the match. Wozniacki still managed to break serve for 2-0.
After her first-round triumph over Timea Babos, the 24-year-old Brit admitted she had considered becoming an au pair only last year as she wasn’t making enough money as a tennis player. Despite the lop-sided defeat on Wednesday, she was clearly soaking up the moment on a big show court and the biggest pay cheque of her short career.
A scream of "I love you Naomi" from a man in the crowd made the Brit break into a grin. She sent down an ace for a love-hold and gave a cheeky "this one's for you" salute in the direction of the amorous fan.
It was a brief surge. Wozniacki served out the opening set and broke immediately to love to start the second. She would bring up match point when Broady sprayed a wild backhand into the net and took it when the Brit shanked a return of serve.
“I got to break her early in both sets, which kind of gave me a cushion, the lead early on. It felt good. She has a big serve, some big groundstrokes. It was important for me just to keep focused, not giving her a chance on my service games was important,” Wozniacki said.
Casting aside her recent split from golfer fiancé Rory McIlroy, the Dane was able to see the light side to a question posed to her on Tuesday about whether she would consider internet dating.
“You just have to laugh. I mean, what else is there to do? I got a few people out there asking me if I want to date them,” Wozniacki smiled. “I'm like, ‘Well, I'm taking my time, taking it easy at the moment’. I kind of feel like I need to be single for a while.”
Croatian 16-year-old Ana Konjuh is up next. If she makes it through that one it would equal her best run at Wimbledon. Strange things can happen when the chips are down.
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