Tenacious Caroline Wozniacki survives a scare to stay on course
Determined Dane overcomes a second-set wobble against unheralded Allertova
Caroline Wozniacki celebrates a point against Denisa Allertova during their second round match at Wimbledon. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
On one side of court 12 where Caroline Wozniacki faced Denisa Allertova there was just a ribbon of seats two deep separating the players from the public.
Fans strolled along the narrow walkway between the outside courts and could, had they wished, jumped up and peered over the hoarding to see the former world number one play her way into the third round.
For ‘Wozza’ these past few years since the heady days of being the best have been ones of reclaiming lost ground. From the end of 2011 when she was the top rank, she fell back to 10 and didn’t really make a move from there in 2012 or 2013.
She ended 2014 at number eight and is in Wimbledon seeded five but still without a Grand Slam. Yesterday she showed both sides of her playing potential, a first set that was uneventful except for its one-sided nature. It was a 6-1 whiz against a player that had never played at Wimbledon before, or in any grass event at Tour level.
In the second set her 83 -ranked opponent realised she had nothing to lose and started hitting aggressively after finding herself 5-1 and a set down. Allertova then clawed her way back into the match and broke Wozniacki to take a 6-5 lead after a disputed groundstroke from the Dane appeared to hit the line but was called out.
Wozniacki stepped up to the umpires chair to plead her case, reminding him that the ball was on his side of the court, the subtext being that he should have seen it as she had done.
But it was court 12. There was no Hawkeye to consult, no challenges to make. She lost the point and Allertova took the lead. A few points later as they were involved in a rally, a drowning roar erupted up from the number two court where Britain’s James Ward had just won the second set on his way to an unforeseen win over Czech player Jiri Vesely.
It’s where Wozniacki finds herself these days, a player having to prove herself for a second time and yesterday it just felt like a little off Broadway.
But since last summer’s low, after her private life was torn apart when golfer Rory McIlroy called off their engagement, she has bounced back.
Part of that was making it to the final of the US Open, her best surface and first Grand Slam final since 2009. But she has never gotten past the fourth round at Wimbledon.
Yesterday she did come back. Tenacity and grit did it and that she has in abundance. She raised her game enough to win the tiebreak 8-6 and the 100 watt smile beamed out on an over cast day.
“I was up a set and 5-1. You know, I felt comfortable and confident,” she said afterwards. “All of a sudden she started playing better. She started hitting the lines as well. You know, small things. All of a sudden it’s 5-6 instead of comfortably in the locker room having won the match.
“In the end of the day, I won. I kept fighting . . .”
On Wozniacki’s side of the draw just two-times winner and world number two Petra Kvitova is seeded higher than her and the forward projection is that the two will meet in the semi-final.
There is a considerable rump who would doubt that meeting with Kvitova will ever happen. But Wozniacki has spoken before about doubters. They doubted she would make the top 100, the top 50 and the top 10. Now her lack of a Slam is the cudgel. That adversity appears to have steeled her resolve.
“I always feel like a contender. I’m five in the world, so of course I feel like a contender,” she said.
“I feel like it’s been a season where I’ve had some great matches and some great wins, and a season where I have had some tough draws, as well. In general I feel like I’m playing well, and that’s the main thing.”
The fourth round barrier and beyond is in her thinking, although she didn’t make it past the third rounds in Australia or Paris. At Eastbourne, she made a run to the semi-final but was forced to retire with a back injury against Belinda Benecic.
“I’m very motivated for that,” she said of advancing into next week. “I’ve won Eastbourne (2009). I’ve done so well there so many times. I won junior Wimbledon. I feel so comfortable on the grass. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to make it past the fourth round.”
Kvitova made short work of Japan’s Kurumi Nara. The Czech player raced through the first set 6-2 then carved up the smallest woman in the draw 6-0 in the second in 23 minutes. Total court time 58 minutes.
Angelique Kerber, seeded 10 took two sets but a little longer against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova with Germany’s Sabine Lisicki struggling against American Christina McHale and falling in the first set before coming through in three sets 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.