I've always been enthralled by the power of trends in the tennis world. Players tend to follow them, but media and tennis professionals tend to make them absolute truths. It takes something special to break away.
I signed a representation deal with Caroline Wozniacki when she was 10 years old. I've been negotiating contracts for her since she was 13 or 14. At the time, the Williams sisters were at the height of their domination of the tennis world. They had sent Martina Hingis to retirement and everybody was agreeing that power was the wave of the future. If you didn't have it, you weren't getting to No. 1 in the world. And then a little woman called Justine Henin became the top player in the world by showing totally different abilities: speed, diversity of shot-selection and taking the ball early. But even then, there wasn't much interest in the young teenager named Caroline.
"She's too limited and lacks power," they said. "She'll be top 50 because she's a fighter, but nothing more." I heard this constantly. Those whispers persisted even when she became the No. 2 junior is the world (at this point I wasn't representing her anymore). However, today, she's No. 2 in the world and going to enter these quarterfinals at the U.S. Open as the main favorite for the title.
As Richard Williams has always told me: Players with self-confidence will always be the best ones. Because a match can turn on a few details and points and players can be victims of pressure and feelings in those moments, they need to be a rock. So the more confident ones, the serene ones, are always the ones who'll make the good decisions when it matters. Caroline is among this group of winners. She's calm, determined and confident. When Victoria Azarenka, Vera Zvonareva, Elena Dementieva and company haven't found that mental zone yet, Caroline is more than ready.
She's also the definition of a fighter. She keeps on fighting on every point, in every situation and she displays the amazing abilities of a counterpuncher. It's stunning to watch how she moves. She's reading the game perfectly so she's able to be early on the ball and that's why it's so hard to get her out of the way. She feels the game pretty well so she can anticipate. It's like she's attracting the ball like a magnet. She's always making the opponent hit one more ball again and again, so this player tends to take more and more risks and then misses.
Unlike many of the players, Caroline is playing with her brain. She has studied the shots of her opponents and she sets a different game plan depending of whom she's confronted with. She knows how to use her abilities to put others under pressure, she knows how to slow the game to then be able to give more pace and, most importantly, she always takes her opponent's moves into consideration. She plays against you.
Last year I was the first to state that she won't win a Grand Slam right now, because she wasn't showing the weapons needed to get through. But lately she has brought a more aggressive side to her game. She's not using that all the time, but it's definitely there. Caroline has tremendously improved her serve as far as putting more first serves in and giving it more spin. Her forehand, which was her weak side, is way steadier and she now can attack with it. Overall, she's a more complete player today, moving better and hitting stronger than before. She looks more confident.
Caroline Wozniacki seems ready to win her first Grand Slam. She's got a unique chance with Serena Williams being out. A career is often decided by being able to capitalize on breaks. Wozniacki can start to do that now and put her name in the tennis history. We'll know on Saturday what she has made of this opportunity.