Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tennis: Caroline Wozniacki fends off pressure

Caroline Wozniacki does not want to put herself under undue pressure. Photo / Dean Purcell
Caroline Wozniacki does not want to put herself under undue pressure. Photo / Dean Purcell

Caroline Wozniacki is happy to be back in New Zealand - but don't talk to her about unfinished business.

The Dane has a solid record at the ASB Classic but has yet to win the Auckland tournament.

For someone of her pedigree - she has won 25 WTA tournaments, only behind Serena and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova among active players - it's a little unusual, but doesn't seem to bother Wozniacki.

"It's the first tournament of the year," said Wozniacki. "They always get a strong field here. I don't put too much pressure on myself this week - just go out there and do my best.

"I'm never won this tournament obviously but I hope to get a good start into the year, get the rust off and that is what I am aiming for."

On her first visit here in 2009 Wozniacki reached the quarter-finals, losing to eventual runner-up Elena Vesnina.

In 2014, she was beaten in the final by Venus Williams - in one of the best deciders in tournament history - and last year the 26-year-old was upset by Sloane Stephens in the last four.

Serena Williams looms as the obvious obstacle to breaking that duck this year, with the American making her only her second appearance at an International level level event since 2012. Williams is the unlikely colossus in the field, but Wozniacki only sees positives with the presence of the world No2.

"It's great for the tournament, great for the crowd," said Wozniacki. "It's nice for us. We get to hang a little bit ... it's nice to have her here."

Wozniacki low key approach to this year is understandable. She endured a difficult 2016, dropping out of the top 50 for the first time in eight years, as she had injuries and struggled for form.

There was even talk that the former world No1 - she was on the summit for a total of 67 weeks in 2011 and 2012 - might retire from the game.

But Wozniacki turned things around impressively in the second half of the year, reaching the semifinals in New York and winning tournaments in Tokyo and Hong Kong to return to the top 20.

"I got some good confidence at the end of last year and I know that I can play really well," said Wozniacki. "Once I got healthy and could give it my all it started to click. [But] it depends on the year. Some years I have started off horribly and not really found my rhythm in the first couple of matches and other years it has been clicking from the start."

Wozniacki faces world No89 Nicole Gibbs (USA) today, in what should be an intriguing battle from the baseline. "She's a good player, she's very consistent," said the Dane. "It's going to be a good challenge to start the year. There won't be a lot of free points. I'm feeling good so I will just go out there and play."

Wozniacki in Auckland
2009: Quarter-final
2015: Runner-up
2016: Semifinal

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 26 May 2017 16:58:03 Processing Time: 332ms