by JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – No longer the ingénue of the WTA, former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is learning with age comes wisdom. And, more importantly, she is putting that knowledge to good use.
“I’m in a great place right now, and I feel like I have been working really hard. You know, this is the part of the season I really like. I love playing on grass. I love the U.S. Open Series,” she said after her first-round win at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
“It’s definitely a part of the season I play well in. It’s definitely a confidence boost. I won Istanbul and kind of went from there.”
The 24-year-old Dane defeated Magdaléna Rybáriková of Slovakia: 6-2, 6-3. She next will play China’s Zhang Shuai, who beat Great Britain's Heather Watson: 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.
“I felt good out there today. I felt like I played really well,” Wozniacki said. “I managed to kind of keep my head cool, and I felt like I was pressuring her back. You know, she had to run a lot. I felt like I was in charge of the points.”
She said her goal for the rest of the season is simple: Win.
“To be honest, I just look for just winning a lot of matches. I love being out there. I love playing on the big courts,” she said.
“Hopefully, you know, get far in the tournaments and get the great wins under my belt, which are the ones where we really battle it out. Where you feel you are both playing really well and you win in the end, those are the most satisfying matches to win.”
Wozniacki marveled that this is her ninth year on the professional tennis tour.
“It’s crazy. I definitely don’t feel like a young one anymore,” she said. “You know, the worst part is whenever you play somebody – like I played (Belinda) Bencic in Istanbul and I think she was born in ‘97. I’m like, are you kidding me? Like, really? She’s seven years younger than me? That (made) me feel really old.
“But I guess that’s how I was a few years back. It’s fun to see the new generations coming up, as well. I definitely don’t feel like the young one anymore.”
Wozniacki said she has learned, in particular, how to take better care of herself.
“I used to be able to practice four, five hours a day, going to the gym and do everything, do it every day, no days off, not having to need a physio or massage because my body would just be fine,” she said.
“Now I really need to take care of my body. I really need to do a lot of strengthening training, need to get massages every day. I need to do all that to kind of keep it in check. That’s probably the biggest difference.
Currently ranked 12th, Wozniacki said she is training hard. She works out a lot and runs long distances.
“I guess I’m also getting older. I think the body changes as you get older. You lose the baby fat and you kind of get more lean, I guess,” she said.
“I feel great about my body. It’s also healthy, which is the main part of me. I’m moving really well out there. I feel this is the shape I’d like to stay in, because this is the weight and everything where I feel the best.
“I’m not too light or too heavy. I can still move and still have the power. It’s good.”
She also has gained valuable experience – life experience, as well as on-court experience.
“I have been through so many things and achieved so much that, you know, I dreamed of growing up,” she said. “When I started, that was a dream for me to reach all that. Now you’re here, and already I have won 22 events, been No. 1 in the world, and it’s cool to look at it that way, you know.”
But, Wozniacki stressed, her career is not yet done. Not close.
“There’s still hopefully a few more years in me and, you know, a few more good years in me,” she said.
“I feel in a great place both mentally and physically on court. It’s an exciting time.”