Maybe Caroline Wozniacki can salvage something out of this season after all. She certainly salvaged her match against Svetlana Kuznetsova yesterday.
Down 4-0 in the first set at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the scoreboard numbers were decidedly against her, but the numbers in her head weren’t.
“I looked at the stats and I think I had six winners and two unforced errors,” Wozniacki said. “It’s not like I was playing bad. I was actually feeling the ball pretty well. She started off on fire, and I was just, I need to keep fighting and keep going. Hopefully I’ll find a way to change the score.”
That, she did. The unseeded Wozniacki rallied against the Open’s ninth seed for a 6-4, 6-4 win that sent her into the third round, where she will meet Monica Niculescu.
Ankle and elbow injuries have forced Wozniacki to miss significant time this season and her ranking has fallen all the way to No. 74. She has twice made the final at the Open, twice more the semifinals. She is a fixture in Flushing Meadows, if not a champion, and was the fourth seed here last year. She began with a tough, and toughening win over American Taylor Townsend, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, in the first round. Despite the rankings drop, she maintains that the number does not reflect her mindset.
“I always believe in myself and I always think that in my head I belong to the top of the game,” Wozniacki said. “You know, I’m going to have tough draws because of my ranking, but in the end of the day I’m healthy, and that’s the main thing. Then I can start building from that.”
Kuznetsova, the 2004 Open champion, was enjoying a resurgence. She won in Sydney, reached the final of the Miami Open and had high-profile wins over Serena Williams and Simona Halep. Last month, Kuznetsova cracked the Top 10 for the first time in more than six years.
“After 4-0 [in the first set)] it was very even games, even on my serve,” Kuznetsova said. “Then I made a couple of unforced errors which I shouldn’t do and I just let her in the match. And she started to believe. I was really frustrated because I felt like I was playing good.”
Getting back on Ashe Stadium Court, with its roof structure creating a true arena effect, was inspirational for Wozniacki, who says that her health battles are tied into the mental part of the game, and even the acoustics of Ashe were energizing.
“I think the echo in there is a little louder, but it already was that last year,” Wozniacki said. “When I played night session on Ashe I could definitely hear it was loud. But it’s part of the U.S. Open. The crowd is loud. The crowd gets into it. I love that about this tournament.”
Also moving on was the Open’s No. 2 seed, Angelique Kerber, who defeated Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2, 7-6 (7). She next will meet American Catherine Bellis, who defeated Shelby Rogers 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.