Caroline Wozniacki, the No 8 seed at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, needed just an hour and two minutes to beat Sorana Cirstea and set up her first meeting with Venus Williams since 2008, writes John McAuley.
Wozniacki has Venus Williams in her semi-final sights
DUBAI // Caroline Wozniacki remembers well her initial encounter with Venus Williams, way back when, at the 2007 Cellular South Cup in Memphis, Tennessee.
Wozniacki, a 16-year-old wild card of considerable promise, had by then joined the professional ranks, but in the moments before facing the former world No 1, she cast her mind back to those formative years on the junior circuit.
Wozniacki would sometimes remark how a young opponent possessed a strong serve. It did not go down well with her father, Piotr, who knew a big serve when he saw one.
“My dad is like, ‘What? No, it’s not Venus or Serena [Williams] on the other side.’
“Then I made it to the WTA Tour and I was playing Venus for the first time, and I’m like, ‘OK, dad … give me the tactics. I’m actually playing Venus now, so what am I supposed to do on that return?’
“He goes, ‘Oh, I don’t know. Suit yourself out there’.”
Wozniacki overpowered Sorana Cirstea 6-1, 6-2 in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday to set up a semi-final match Friday with the elder Williams sister.
In that first meeting with Venus Williams, Wozniacki did dad proud, lasting one hour and 19 minutes against a multiple grand slam champion in a 6-4, 6-4 defeat.
Having clashed three more times since – all before Wozniacki’s 18th birthday – her record against Williams reads 0-4. Furthermore, she has failed to take a set off her venerable opponent.
Yet, as they prepare to meet on court for the first time in almost six years, to put it in Wozniacki’s words, “A lot has changed”.
Wozniacki has herself reached the summit of women’s tennis – she was world No 1 for 67 weeks in 2010 and 2011. And, at age 23 she can call upon experience gleaned from a large body of work.
Still, meeting Williams at the Aviation Club turns back the pages.
An early recollection depicts the American at the 1999 Australian Open, when Williams was fined a break point when her hair beads flew onto the court during a quarter-final match with Lindsay Davenport.
“I remember Venus was playing, and then she had these things in her hair,” Wozniacki said. “And then, obviously, I remember when [the Williamses] had made their mark on the tour and started to give players like [Martina] Hingis big trouble, because they had so much power and players couldn’t keep up. They definitely changed the game.”
Wozniacki will focus on hers when the rivalry reconvenes here. She dispatched Cirstea in one hour, saving energy for the match-up with Williams. They are both Dubai champions, to boot.
“Venus is a great, great player,” she said. “You always know going out to play against her it’s not going to be easy. She has won so much and, for me I just need to go out there, be focused on myself and my own game and give it all. We will see what happens.”
Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE