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U.S. Open: Caroline Wozniacki rallies to win first-round match

Caroline Wozniacki returns to Taylor Townsend during the

Caroline Wozniacki returns to Taylor Townsend during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament on Monday, Aug. 29, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Caroline Wozniacki isn’t quite a hometown girl, but an apartment in Manhattan and a love for the U.S. Open make feel right at home.

The Danish player made herself right at home in the new Grandstand Court yesterday, playing the first official match on it against American Taylor Townsend and grinding out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.

“It’s pretty cool to be the first one,” said Wozniacki. “You know I thought the old Grandstand isn’t going to be there anymore, [and] it’s really sad because it’s one of my favorite courts, it’s really intimate. So then when I saw the new one, I was like oh, I understand now. It’s pretty awesome.”

This is been a decidedly down season for Wozniacki, twice a beaten finalist at the Open and twice a semifinalist. Last year she was the No. 4 seed here. This year she is unseeded and ranked No. 74 in the world. Recovery from a sprained right ankle and a sore left elbow have gobbled up a good deal of her season, keeping her out of competition for more than two months and limiting her practice and match effectiveness. Yesterday’s victory puts her match record this year at 14-14.

“It hasn’t been a good season because I’ve been injured most of it, so it’s something you can’t do much about, just keep working and trying to get your body in check,” said Wozniacki. “I’m just happy to be here and get another match in.”

She dropped the first set to the 20-year-old Townsend, who’s lefty serve was giving Wozniacki right old fits. “I usually like to say I’m one of the better returners on tour, but today that didn’t show and it was really frustrating,” said Wozniacki.

Townsend was feeling the frustration, too, the frustration of not being able to take advantage of winning the first set. “This is one of those losses that really stings,” she said. “I had so many chances. This is definitely not satisfying for me. I want to continue, go back out, I mean I could go back out on the practice court now. That’s just how I feel.”

Townsend felt good in the heat, which by match time had gotten above the 86 degree mark, automatically activating the Open heat protocol, but neither player took advantage of being able to take a 10-minute break between the second and third sets. Wozniacki had just won that second set and didn’t want to lose the momentum.

“I didn’t want to take the heat rule break because I was feeling fine,” said Wozniacki. “I’m in good shape and I can play out here for a long time.”

Townsend, who had to qualify to get into the Open, didn’t have a chance to hit on the new Grandstand before the match, as Wozniacki did. But she was wowed by the new court. “The court is amazing. It’s beautiful,” she said. “I didn’t realize how big it was until people started to come in and it started to get a little more packed. I was in awe.”

Wozniacki next faces veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 Open champion who defeated Francesca Schiavone in straight sets yesterday. “We’ve had a lot of grueling matches,” said Wozniacki. “At this point, I’m just happy when I’m healthy. That’s been my focus this year 100 per cent, just getting back to healthy. It’s been a struggle, but I feel like I’m there now and will try to make the most of it.”

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