Wozniacki the latest to fall in France
PARIS -- Somewhere in Florida, the Williams sisters are probably wishing, despite their various ailments, they had made the trip to Roland Garros.
In light of the curious events unfolding here, they might have made the finals -- on one leg.
On Friday, No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki was quite upset by Daniela Hantuchova, 6-1, 6-3, when her tired-looking backhand found the net. This, the day after No. 2 seed Kim Clijsters was sent packing by Arantxa Rus, an obscure Dutch player, after squandering two match points and a 6-3, 5-2 lead.
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If that sounds cataclysmic, it is. This French-fried Open, only six days old, has made history. It is the first time in the Open era -- at 43 years, a serious chunk of time -- that neither the No. 1 nor No. 2 women's seed reached the fourth round.
"I know everyone has to write a story, but anyone can win in tennis," said Wozniacki, adding parenthetically that she doesn't read newspapers. "You know there are a lot of great players. Kim had a tough loss yesterday, I had a tough loss today. Since we are No. 1 and No. 2, it means we are doing something right. That's what happens in a Grand Slam."
And, did we mention that No. 8 seed Samantha Stosur -- a finalist here a year ago -- was also bounced on Friday, by Gisela Dulko, as was No. 17 seed Julia Goerges, who had beaten Wozniacki twice in a span of two weeks on clay. Four legitimate contenders for the title -- gone in the span of 24 hours.
Seriously, what's going on here?
"There's only going to be one winner," Wozniacki said. "There are 127 others who are going to go home with a loss, and I'm one of them. Everyone always has an opinion. It doesn't matter, you know. For me, I know what I'm capable of. I know I'm a great player. I'm doing well, and I had a loss today. That's what happens."
And then she borrowed a line from Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I'll be back even better."
For 32 weeks now, Wozniacki has been ranked No. 1 on the WTA Tour, an impressive achievement for a 20-year-old. The Dane has done it by being the most consistent player and, for the most part, the busiest one. She won six titles last year, but played a women's-high 79 matches to get them.
Even this year, after she was criticized for overplaying and failing again to win her first Grand Slam singles title, she continues to play a mind-melting, body-bending schedule. The day after the event in Miami, after the grueling back-to-back events in Indian Wells and Miami, Wozniacki surfaced in Monte Carlo to play an exhibition. Last week, when most of the top players took the week off to rest up for Roland Garros, Wozniacki played in Brussels, where she won all four of her matches and, naturally, won.
Wozniacki, who looked sluggish Friday and, sometimes, uncharacteristically flat-footed, did not display her characteristic zeal in tracking down wayward balls. Maybe it's because she's already played 48 matches through five months, four more than Shuai Peng, who is next on the list.
Hantuchova, a leggy 28-year-old from the Czech Republic, has scored some nice wins in her long career, but has not been much of a factor in the majors. After making three consecutive major quarterfinals in 2002 and '03, the only big splash she made was reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open three years ago.
On Friday, she employed the aggressive style that has beaten Wozniacki four times now this clay season. The first set was over in less than a half-hour, and the bottom-line statistic of winners was an eye-catching 15-0 in favor of Hantuchova.
"All credit goes to Daniela," acknowledged Sven Groeneveld, Wozniacki's coach. "She stepped up, stood on the baseline. It was windy conditions and she went through the wind. She took the ball as early as possible and forced Caroline to stay back and drop back, and she stayed back. That's something that can't happen. She'll recognize that after we analyze it together. It's something, she's still young -- she needs to get that information sooner to adapt to that."
Hantuchova broke Wozniacki's serve to open the second set (ultimately, it would happen five times) and eased out to a 4-0 lead before coasting in. The only top seed to lose earlier at Roland Garros was Justine Henin, in the 2004 second round.
For the record, Wozniacki has been No. 1 for 32 weeks now -- the longest-ever span by a woman without a major title. But lest we forgot, she's one of only five 20-year-olds in the top 20.
"You could say it's a step-by-step learning procedure," Groeneveld said. "She's only three years on the tour. We can't expect her to go faster than time allows. We've been working on getting the forehand more a little aggressive and her play being a little more aggressive. There's one thing about tactics, there's one thing about mindset, there's also the technical side. Because she plays a lot and gets far, it's very difficult to work on technique, very difficult."
Afterward, she was asked if she regretted playing so much this year, especially Brussels.
"No," she said, a little peevishly. "I don't think it would have made any difference. I'm happy with my schedule and feeling fine. Daniela played better.
"It's not fun to be sitting here right now. I'm going be back as a better player when I see you next time."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Ravi Ubha contributed to this report.
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