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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Caroline Wozniacki has the ability to compete for grand slams - in 2018 she needs to prove it

The Dane capped a fine week in Tokyo with the title, but it was her thrashing of the world No 1 in the semi-finals that reminded everyone of her pedigree.

Caroline Wozniacki celebrates winning the Pan Pacific Open in Japan. Kiyoshi Ota / EPA
Caroline Wozniacki celebrates winning the Pan Pacific Open in Japan. Kiyoshi Ota / EPA

Caroline Wozniacki could be forgiven for having mixed feelings on Sunday following her victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the Pan Pacific Open final in Tokyo.

Relief would definitely have been up there. It was seventh time lucky for the Dane as she picked up her first WTA title of 2017 after falling short in her previous six finals. Pride would have also been in there as the world No 6 was superb all week, the highlight coming in Saturday's semi-final when she trounced world No 1 Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-0.

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Muguruza, the two-time major winner, may be a fairly new incumbent to the No 1 position, having only been there for two weeks, but it is still a status the Spaniard has deservedly earned.

Yet she was unable to cope with Wozniackiโ€™s powerful groundstrokes and focus that meant there was no let up from the Dane. That continued on Sunday when she bageled Pavlyuchenkova in the first set, and though the world No 23 did show some resolve in the second set, it was not enough to prevent Wozniacki prevailing with 6-0, 7-5.

The other emotion that would likely have been whirling around the 27-year-oldโ€™s mind would be regret. Not at the fact that she is back in the victory lane of tennis again, but at the notion that she is once again peaking at the wrong time.

It has been great to see Wozniacki recapture some of the form that led to her spending a total of 67 weeks at No 1 in two spells between October 2010 and January 2012. That total places her ninth in the list of longest time spent as No 1 since the WTA rankings were first brought in.

That aligned to the fact she now has 26 WTA singles titles to her name means she should certainly be considered as one of the finest players of a generation dominated by Serena Williams.

But the one thing missing from her honours cabinet is a grand slam title.

Of the top 10 longest-serving No 1 players, Wozniacki is the only player who has not won a major.

To put it in context, she has spent more than three times as long at No 1 than Maria Sharapova, but the Russian has five major titles to her name. Two losing US Open final appearances, in 2009 and 2014, are as close as she has got.

Like a lot of players, Wozniacki would have looked at this year as a season of real opportunity, given that Williams missed the rest of the year after winning the Australian Open in January to give birth to her daughter Alexis.

Wozniacki has played well throughout the year, with her seven final appearances stretching from February until this weekend. She has reached the most finals of any player on the WTA Tour in 2017, and the only pity is her consistency has not been rewarded with more titles.

Unfortunately that form has not been on show at the grand slams. A run to the last eight at the French Open was as good as it got, which is surprising given how well she has played throughout the year, highlighted by her move up the rankings from starting the year at world No 19.

It is hard to put a finger on why she is yet to win a grand slam. The talent is there, but she is yet to put it all together over a two-week tournament.

Yes, she has been around in the Williams era, but the American has spent plenty of time on the sidelines, and there have been titles to be won, yet the Daneโ€™s name has not been on any of them.

There is nothing Wozniacki can do about that now. There are still a lot of points and titles to be won in the remaining month of the season before proceedings wrap up at the WTA Finals in Singapore.

While her place in Singapore is not yet assured, there is a strong chance Wozniacki will be competing there. A strong end to the season will be the icing on the cake of a fine year, and it can give her the momentum to go to the Australian Open in January, the first major of 2018, with real confidence.

Williams has said she will be back for Melbourne, but after so much time away from the court there can be no degree of expectation on what level she will come back at.

In winning in Japan and hammering Muguruza in the manner she did, Wozniacki demonstrated she can still reach the levels needed to be a grand slam winner. Her challenge now is to find that form at the right time.