Tennis: Wozniacki sets sights on title shot

By Niall Anderson

Tennis star Caroline Wozniacki took part in an ASB Classic pre-tournament exhibition match on the streets of Broadway, Newmarket. Photo / Dean Purcell
Tennis star Caroline Wozniacki took part in an ASB Classic pre-tournament exhibition match on the streets of Broadway, Newmarket. Photo / Dean Purcell

Caroline Wozniacki has plenty of motivation as she begins her 2016 tennis season in a familiar setting.

The Danish standout touched down in Auckland with a simple goal in mind for the ASB Classic - to go one better than last year, when she fell to Venus Williams in a thrilling three-set final.

That 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 defeat gave Wozniacki extra incentive to return to Auckland - not that she needed it, judging by the compliments she lavished on the tournament.

"I love being back here, last year was an amazing year for me here and a tournament I love coming back to," said the 25-year-old.

After starting on a high note, Wozniacki had a rough campaign in 2015, winning the Malaysian Open but failing to make a mark in any of the Grand Slams - reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon but being bundled out in the second round in the other three slams.

Wozniacki rues the injuries which saw her slump to 17th in the world, her lowest year-end ranking since 2007.

"I got some injuries last year and that kind of held me back, but I'm feeling good now and hopefully I can keep improving and keep playing well and I'm excited for the challenge this year."

That challenge starts in Auckland for the second year running, and she's determined to eclipse her finals loss to Williams last year.

"I'm obviously very motivated. Hopefully, I can make it one step further this year, that's the goal, but all in all, I'm just excited to be here," said Wozniacki.

The 35-year-old Williams received plenty of praise from her title contending rival, with the duo possible finals opponents again after being placed on opposite sides of the draw.

"It's amazing - 35 years old and still playing strong. I'm impressed with how she can keep her motivation up for so many years," said Wozniacki of Williams.

However, a chance of a first ASB Classic title could be tough if Wozniacki runs into some of the draw's big names - holding a 0-7 lifetime record against Williams, and winning just two of seven clashes with Ana Ivanovic.

While those two stars are known commodities, Wozniacki has admitted she knows little about her first-round opponent, 21-year-old Danka Kovinic.

Ranked 57th in the world, Kovinic became the first player from Montenegro to make a WTA final in 2015, and reached the second round at the French and US Opens.

She ranked third in second serve win percentage on the tour last season, and compiled a 10-12 record on hard courts in 2015, compared with Wozniacki's 26-17 mark.

Although a promising talent to keep an eye on, Kovinic hasn't beaten a player of Wozniacki's calibre in her career to date.

And it will have to remain that way for Wozniacki to make the necessary start in her goal of seeing her name inscribed on the ASB Classic trophy.

Schedule of play today

Centre Court
10am
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) v Terenza Martincova (CZE)

Not before midday
Johanna Larsson (SWE) v WC-Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

Followed by
4-Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Mona Barthel (GER)
Andrea Hlavackova (CZE)/Lucie Hradecka (CZE) v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL)/Ana Ivanovic (SRB)
Marina Erakovic (NZL)/Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) v Rosie Cheng (NZL/Sacha Jones (AUS)

Grandstand
10am
Lauren Davis (USA) v Kiki Bertens (NED)

Not before midday
Carina Witthoeft (GER) v Tatjana Maria (GER)
Darija Jurak (CRO) v Julia Goerges (GER)
Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) v Alexandra Dulgheru (COL)

Court 2
10am
Kurumi Nara (JPN) v Tamira Paszek (AUT)

Not before 11.30am
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) v Naomi Broady (GBR)

Not before 1pm
Mariana Duque-Mariño (COL) v Nao Hibino (JPN)

- NZ Herald

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