NEW HAVEN -- Sitting in a three-game hole against a sharp, upset-minded opponent, Caroline Wozniacki took a deep breath and found her footing Monday night.
This was an easy court for Wozniacki to regain her composure. The Connecticut Tennis Center is site to some of the most memorable moments of her young career, the place where she won her first title in North America and the stadium where she would win four consecutive crowns.
For a player who rose to No. 1 in the world and has also endured some heartache, this is home.
“I love playing here,” Wozniacki said after her first-round victory at the Connecticut Open Monday.
With an announced crowd of 2,554 supporting her, Wozniacki battled back after losing the first three games of the first set against Timea Bacsinszky, who played herself in the main draw from the qualifying round. Wozniacki eventually pulled even in the set before dropping the last two games.
Upset? Not in New Haven. Wozniacki breezed through the next two sets to complete a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win.
Next up is Camila Giorgi, who defeated American CoCo Vandeweghe in the first round. After an arduous start to her first match, Wozniacki will be prepared for the next round.
“I have to give [Bacsinszky] credit because she started off well, she started off really aggressively,” Wozniacki said. “She’s obviously got a few matches here before, playing the [qualifying matches]. … I felt pretty good out there. It took me a little bit to get started and I’m just happy to be through to the next match.”
Wozniacki won New Haven 2008-2001, losing in the semifinals the past two years. Overall, she has won 27 of 29 matches in the tournament.
This year, she enters as the No. 12 player in the world and has been playing well. She’s lost to No. 1 ranked Serena Williams in the past two tournament -- in the semifinal in Cincinnati and the quarterfinal in Montreal -- after winning a tournament in Istanbul and reaching the Round of 16 at Wimbledon.
Overall, she is 34-13 in 2014. Of course, 2014 has been a tumultuous year off the court for Wozniacki.
In May, golfer Rory McIlroy broke off his engagement to Wozniacki. It was famously done by text and the story has been an fodder in the International media, especially with McIlroy rising in the world of golf.
“Honestly, I’ve moved on,” Wozniacki said. “I hope the media will move on sooner rather than later, as well. I feel happy, I’m in a great place mentally. Sometimes things just happy in life that you can’t prepare yourself for and you just have to take it and move on. I’ve done that. I’m definitely a stronger person and, you know, a happier person now. I play well, I’m doing well. So many positives.”
One way she’s coped: running. A lot of running. Wozniacki is training for the Nov. 2 New York Marathon, so she is logging many miles as she prepares.
On Sunday, she ran around the Yale campus. She is not playing Tuesday, so she plans to put in some miles in Greater New Haven.
“It’s going really well,” Wozniacki said. “I’ve been running a lot. … I think it’s helping my tennis as well. I love just going out for a run and kind of think of nothing and just be out there and enjoy nature. I feel like I’m in great shape.”
How does she balance tennis training with marathon training? She’s always been a fitness fanatic, so it’s not much of a stretch. And she has seen her play improve as she’s increased the running.
“I feel like I’m playing better,” Wozniacki said. “I’ve been doing a lot of running, which has helped my physique. It must be intimidating a little bit for the opponents knowing I can be out there for hours and hours and I’m not going to get tired because I’m doing a lot of running, I’m doing a lot of cardio. I think it’s helping my game.”
Her fitness was on display Monday night. Wozniacki seemed to improve as the match wore on, bouncing around the court and moving with as much -- or even more energy -- in the final game as she did in the first.
There’s a direct link between the fitness and the performance between the lines. She is playing well and playing in her favorite spot, already looking through the draw and thinking about another title
“My confidence is high,” Wozniacki said. “I feel like I’ve played really well. I’ve had some good wins and I’ve had a lot of matches, which is great, leading up to the [U.S.] Open. Hopefully I get a few more matches here. How many more? Four?”
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