Caroline Wozniacki just keeps trundling along, under the radar if never out of the spotlight.
Coming into the U.S. Open this year unseeded with a season full of injuries, Wozniacki didn’t have any sort of expectations. Twice a loser in the Open final, twice a loser in semifinals, Wozniacki’s prospects of going deep at Flushing Meadows were bleak.
Now here she is, into the fourth round of the Open after a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Monica Niculescu at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the second match she’s played there this tournament despite being unseeded.
It took Wozniacki’s considerable patience to defeat Niculescu, who plays with a stroke unique to the game. She uses an inside-out wristy forehand, a chopping action that seems more appropriate to basement ping pong games. She hits the ball short and low, forcing opponents in, then lobbing when she can. And many of those short balls are drop shots.
“She’s a frustrating player to play,” Wozniacki said. “She plays very smart. It’s a complete different game style than what I or anyone is used to. I just tried to keep my head cool.”
As for the drop shots, “I mean, she had some good dropshots. That’s the way she kind of moves the opponent in. If you’re a little too late she will do a lob, and that’s even more frustrating because you feel like a little kid being schooled and running back and forth. But I think I managed that pretty well today. I think I won quite a few of those dropshots.”
Next up for Wozniacki is Madison Keys, who defeated Naomi Osaka Friday. Before she knew which one she would play, she offered this assessment.
“Both are big hitters and big servers,” she said. “Both have big forehands. It’s actually very similar game styles. I’ll need to retrieve well and keep good depth on my shots and serve well. Yeah, I just need to fight for every point.”
Wozniacki and Keys have never played. “I don’t think we have ever really practiced or anything, but she’s obviously a great player,” Keys said. “She loves playing at the U.S. Open. She’s done well here. She’s going to be tough.”
Wozniacki’s ranking of 74 will definitely be going up at the conclusion of this tournament, though she says that has no bearing on her attitude or her goals.
“To be honest with you, I’m not that worried about the ranking at this point. I’m just happy to be healthy and back playing,” Wozniacki said. “It’s been a rough year because I haven’t been able to catch a break from injuries basically. Every time I have come back something else has been hurting. Knock on wood, right now I’m feeling good. Everything is feeling good.”