Wozniacki plays catch-up in Asia

Besides serving up tips at the Singapore Sports Institute, Caroline Wozniacki also dissected what went right and wrong in her serves that were captured on video.
Besides serving up tips at the Singapore Sports Institute, Caroline Wozniacki also dissected what went right and wrong in her serves that were captured on video.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Dane hopes to pick up enough points to fill one of the remaining 5 slots in WTA Finals in S'pore

By her own admission, the season has not gone all according to plan for tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

After enjoying a resurgent year last season, which included her second Grand Slam final and a semi-final berth at the season-ending WTA Finals, the world No. 6 ran into some unexpected roadblocks.

In June, back trouble forced her to withdraw from her semi-final at the Eastbourne grass-court tournament against Swiss Belinda Bencic.

Then at the Rogers Cup in Toronto less than two months later, she soldiered on despite playing with a heavily-strapped calf.

But she fell to the same opponent in her opening match.

HEAD OFF DOUBTS

Tennis is 90 per cent in the head. If you have the belief... there's no stopping you if you work hard.

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI dispensing advice at a meet-and-greet session at the Singapore Sports Institute

Despite the setbacks, the Dane - known to be one of the most candid players on the women's professional tennis tour - is all about looking ahead and focusing on the things she has control over.

That means doing well enough in the upcoming Asian swing to leap from No. 14 - where she now sits on the Road to Singapore - to a place among the top eight to earn a second straight berth at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals.

"It's been a season where I've struggled a little with injury and things like that," the 25-year-old said yesterday.

"(But) I believe in my chances. I think I'm playing well and healthy right now, and that's the main thing. I'm hoping for a good run in Asia and to be back (in Singapore)."

There is still all to play for, with only the top three players - Serena Williams, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova - having confirmed their spots in the Oct 23-Nov 1 season-ending tournament.

The race for the five remaining slots is a close one, and Wozniacki has typically had creditable showings in Asia, making the final in Tokyo and the semi-finals in Wuhan last year. Her lone title so far this year was picked up at the Malaysian Open in March.

Wozniacki is in town at the invitation of the Singapore Tourism Board and Sport Singapore. Within hours of her early-morning arrival, she was at the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) for a meet-and-greet session with a group of about 50.

They included students from Nanyang Girls' High School and Hwa Chong Institution, as well as some of Singapore's top tennis juniors.

She took questions on topics from nutrition to training practices.

She spent time at SSI's laboratory where her serve was analysed using video technology.

She even played coach, dissecting a video review of her own serve - and those of several juniors - as she guided the group through the do's and don'ts of a good service game.

Said Ashley Yim, a 15-year-old student at St Joseph's Institution (International): "Her explanation was very detailed and in-depth, and it's such a great opportunity to hear from a former world No. 1.

"Her serve is so much faster and stronger than what we see on television, and I got to observe her go through the little things that make a big difference to a serve."

A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Wozniacki admitted that one can never be perfect in tennis - which can be an equal source of passion and frustration.

She encouraged the juniors to focus on two things they can control - hard work and self-belief.

"Tennis is 90 per cent in the head. If you have the belief... there's no stopping you if you work hard."

She assured the group that even players in the upper-most echelons of the game face the same struggles that they do. These include getting out of bed in the wee hours to hit the court for practice.

"The biggest challenge is in motivating yourself every day," she said.

"Waking up in the early morning when it's rainy or cold, and everyone else is still sleeping.

"You're out there practising, running, doing everything to be better than everyone else. (It's) not all fun but it's worth it when you hold the trophy in your hands.

"Everyone has hit a wall at one point and feel like it's not going your way. But a lot of people give up when they're so close to reaching their goals and a breakthrough.

"I know that if I work hard and practise well, it's all going to come."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'Wozniacki plays catch-up in Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe