Kim Clijsters Tears Ankle Ligament While Dancing. It’s Caroline Wozniacki’s Tour now. Is She Ready?

Caroline Wozniacki after winning Sunday

We’ve probably seen the end of Kim Clijsters, who tore ligaments and severely sprained her right ankle over the weekend while dancing at a wedding. She had been looking for an out again anyway, just hanging around for next year’s Olympics.

We’ve seen the end of Justine Henin, who retired again in January, blaming an injury.

And I wonder if we’ve gotten all we’ll get from Serena Williams, too. She has been out for almost a year, first with a mysterious foot injury and – in my opinion – lack of interest. Now, she deals with a blood clot in her lungs.

Clijsters was the news of the day, overshadowing another tournament win by Caroline Wozniacki, who continues as No. 1 even though no one thinks she’s the best. She beat Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-3 to win the Family Circle Cup.

But what happened when Clijsters got hurt was this: The deck instantly reshuffled on the women’s tour. The game has lost all willing and able champions.

Now, women’s tennis belongs to Wozniacki. Is she ready?

This is her moment. Proof is what we’ve needed from her for a while now, certainly since she took the No. 1 spot in the rankings. By that, I mean she has to win a major.

She has to win now, and not so much for herself, but for the tour. Women’s tennis has a sudden and serious lack of star power, though Maria Sharapova could fix that by finding her serve.

Everyone is cleared out of Wozniacki’s way.

But what’s the rush? She’s only 20, and is going to be at, or near, the top for years. She could be great for the game. Fun to watch, marketable good looks, serious craving for attention. Wozniacki would like to be the new Sharapova.

To me, the problem is that she’s not a champion. Instead, she comes off as someone good enough to beat all non-champions, all the time. There’s a big difference.

A few weeks ago, defensive about criticism that she’s No. 1 without a major, Wozniacki thought she was making good point. She said criticism of her is an insult to everyone else. If she isn’t great, then what does that say about everyone behind her?

What it says is that everyone else isn’t a champ either. To me, Wozniacki’s spot on the top of the mountain comes off as a knock on the rest of women’s tennis.

It takes guts to beat Wozniacki, a counter-puncher. She is great at what she does, rarely making mistakes and not-losing her way to titles. On Sunday, she won by making just 10 unforced errors.

She runs everything down, absorbs all power coming at her. She is a human backboard, and at least offers variety to a game that has way too many players doing exactly the same thing:

Bashing mindless shots from the baseline.

Wozniacki makes opponents bash several shots in a row, which requires nerve. The real champs out there, such as Serena and Clijsters, can hold their nerve long enough, which is why they win all the majors.

Others can’t.

Kim Clijsters in photo shoot after winning 2011 Australian Open

I still think Sharapova can get it back together. She’s about to turn 24, and has plenty of time. But she crumbled against Wozniacki at the U.S. Open, and then again last month at Indian Wells, where she lost 6-1, 6-2.

Wozniacki assaults the nerve of the women’s tour. Let me say that another way:

She exposes the lack of nerve.

Clijsters and Henin retired the first time because of the pressures of tour life. Maybe we shouldn’t have expected their comebacks into that pressure to last. Henin left in January, one year after coming back. At the same time, Clijsters, 1½ years into her comeback, said this would be her final full year on tour.

She wants to play in the 2012 Olympics in London. But she already was taking four weeks off for shoulder and wrist pain, choosing not to play through them. She also said she wouldn’t play on the tour’s Asian leg in fear over what’s in the air after the nuclear reactor problems in Japan.

And now, this:

“The consequences are rather dire. . .’’ Clijsters website said. “(T)he diagnosis is a severe strain of both the medial and lateral ligaments of the right ankle and torn ligaments, a torn capsule of the ankle joint, a hematoma and torn tendon sheath. Kim’s ankle is now completely immobilized and she can not use her foot for a few days.’’

Officially, she is out four to six weeks. But that would be a miracle comeback, which she isn’t inclined to make.

Even if she does come back, it won’t be for long. Maybe Serena, who’s 29, will return, but it’s hard to imagine her playing regularly again. Victoria Azarenka, 21, is moving into the top five.

But it’s on Wozniacki .

It’s her tour now. But she has to take it.

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About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

16 responses to “Kim Clijsters Tears Ankle Ligament While Dancing. It’s Caroline Wozniacki’s Tour now. Is She Ready?

  • VoR

    Clijsters and Venus have never won the French open. Serena won it once, nine years ago.
    Thus Clijsters hiding in a nuclear bunker somewhere in Belgium changes very little.

  • Brian Jacsen

    Nice blog about Wozniacki and her top spot, but your putting the blame the wrong place, what you should be critising is the way that the points are given in the tour, you cant blame Wozniacki for earning enough points to take the number one spot.

    Kim and the others play the big ones and they usally win those, Wozniacki plays 25 tournaments a year and by that she plays about 5-10 more then the others and of course that will earn her more points when she is so much better then 90% of the other tennies players out there and that puts her as the nr.1

    So if you have problem with her being at nr.1 without a major, you really have a problem with the way the points system works, so perhaps it needs a reworking so that you cant be nr.1 without a majors win.

    But as it is now Wozniacki is the best in the world.

  • Ziggi

    Wozniaciki plays great tennis – and the ranking system works allright. You cannot call Serena the best player in the world when she hasn`t won anything for 9 month – and for Clijsters – well pretty much the same.
    I really don`t think anyone who just plays a few (grand slams) throughout the year is entitled to be labelled best player. Was Armstrong the best biker? I don`t think so. he was the best TDF biker and nothing else.

    But the worst thing is that you won`t acknowledge Wozniacki`s way of playing. Who ever told you that powerplay is better to watch than those wonderful long rallies? Another American I guess. Why is it Americans are only impressed with power? I don`t get it!

    • Lita

      NO Woz does not play ‘great’ tennis, because you see she got her socks rocked right out of the French Open. What Woz is is a points chaser with very little power, and her style of plan won’t win her a major anytime soon. I am in no way saying she doesn’t have talent. She does, however, unless she develops some power in there and STOP being a retriever, she’s not going to win a grand slam. The other ladies on the tour are playing her like Julia Goeges plays her. She laid the blue print and now it’s time for Woz to change HER game.

      As for her being #1 she is. IF you go by points chasing she is. She is not remotely close to winning a grand slam. I expect her to get bounced out of Wimbledon and the US Open the same way also. HOPE she re-tools her game and adds some power in there.

  • Justin Steele

    In my opinion you are way off base on this one.
    As you pointed out yourself, she’s only 20 years old. Clijsters herself had not won a Major when she was World No. 1 first time around. Clijsters’ game was’nt even at Wozniackis level when she was 20 so i think you’re beeing a little harsh here.
    Wozniacki keeps on adding elements to her game at this point. Notice the power in her serves even the variation of them. Notice the fierce power from the baseline. The distance and angles she can put on allmost every single shot from anywhere on the court is in my opinion very impressive. She, as you also stated, runs every ball down which again makes her an admirable opponent. I agree with your point on Clijsters and Henin having a little more flair but again i must point out that Wosniacki has much more potential than the forementioned. What really marvels me is that critics allways seem to favour these alongside Serena Williams, who actually has some of the same quality Wozniacki posseses, the only difference is that Caroline is a far better player than Serena will ever be. Further more Wozniacki doesn’t get injured, unlike your other favourites who seem to be breaking left and right.
    On your point of Sharapova getting back to the top spot i will also have to disagree.
    She will never beat Wozniacki again. Her mental state is really not strong at all. Her serve is weak and her tactical awareness on the court is allmost non-existent.
    To beat Wozniacki you will have to have a great gameplan, great serves, great flair, great power and be willing to put in the massive effort of running every ball up all the time. The days of just bringing great power like Serena and Sharapova are long gone.
    Wozniacki brought something new to the WTA tour which has changed womens tennis for good. The bar has been raised significantly and players now have to adapt a wide variaty of skills to be at the top instead of just having one or two elemnts in their game thay master.
    Wozniacki has made this game exciting again.

    I have no doubt that she will win at least two Majors this year.

  • JonasFromDK

    I totally agree with Ziggi and Justin Steele. In my book Caro is a champ!

  • MrMe

    @Justine Steele: I am with you in the Woz-bashing is out of line, but saying that CW is a better player than Serena will ever be is just…silly.
    Serenas double digit Slam titles leaves CW a good deal of years (and Slam W’s) before there is any point in making that kind of comparison.

    That beeing said (safe for injuries) I have a hard time imagining CW NOT winning a grand slam this year.

    • Justin Steele

      Justin not Justine; don’t know whether to be offended or not here, but i’ll assume there was no malice.

      My point is this: Yes Serena has had many Slam titles, but it’s easier when u practically only play those big ones, and please don’t argue all of the games between Serena and Venus have been fought out fairly.
      I would go as far as saying that Serena has had it just perfect during her reign however, as i wrote before, tennis has been forced to develope the past year or two. How so? Well because Serena was so dominant in sheer power players have had to find other methods of beating her as they themselves have not had the physical advantages from birth Serena has. This is why the mental focus and physical condition has improved in many other players this past year. To be able to run down balls left and right no matter the power on the other side of the net shows incredible character, and when a player then also is able to improve their game in other aspects such as flair, serves and power, well, that is the player i’d put my money on. Serena hasn’t shown anything but power and now smaller players with a wider range will surpass her, even if she does return to the courts.

    • Lita

      Justine Steele must be drinking. Woz will never win 13 grand slams nor will she ever posses the power Serena Williams has and certainly not the serve.

      Some of you Woz fans are delusional. I like Woz too, but really…

      BETTER than Serena? Now that’s funny…

  • michael

    You are way off here “To me, the problem is that she’s not a champion. Instead, she comes off as someone good enough to beat all non-champions, all the time. There’s a big difference.” If you win that many tournaments and you are no. one, then you have earned respect. You may not like her personality, but that’s different. To say that she is not a champ even though she beats more or less everybody is simple not fair.

  • ziggi

    1. “though no one thinks she’s the best.”
    Well talk for yourself – I know lots of people who think and knows she`s the best!
    A journalist using the terms ‘we’ and ‘everybody’ or ‘none’ should never again be allowed to write – because that is manipulation.

    2.’Women’s tennis has a sudden and serious lack of star power, ‘
    Has it ? Who decided that. It is just your and maybe a few other ‘experts’ (mainly americans) who think so.

    When do you appreciate that the game has changed from Kung Fu fighting to long entertaining rallies.

  • C. W. Fields

    “She is great at what she does, rarely making mistakes and not-losing her way to titles. On Sunday, she won by making just 10 unforced errors.”

    Oh? Guess her 26 winners and 6 aces were just in my imagination then.

  • sissi

    What a joke that @justin steele , Wozniacki is a better player than Serena will ever be, so she is better than a player who’s ranked sixth on the all-time list as far as slams are concerned and won more than Zhoostine Henin and saint kim combined.
    Wozniacki has rejuvenated women’s tennis, haaaaaaaaaaaaa ha ha, joke of the millenium

    • Lita

      Like I said, some of these Woz fans are very funny and quite delusional.

      By the way, Woz sure looked great winning the French Open didn’t she?

      Oops, she didn’t win. Daniela Hantouchova took her out in straights and pretty much embarrassed Woz. Like I said, Woz has talent, but unless she changes that vanilla tennis of hers to incorporate some power and variety, she’s not winning a grand slam anytime soon. You notice the press is now starting to ask her some very tough questions about WHY she’s not close to winning a slam. She has NO answers for them. NONE.

  • Lita

    Well, here it is August 23rd and Woz is practically in free fall. She got beaten by Roberta Vinci at the Rogers Cup, and just last week in Cincinnati by a talented but young player from the USA Christina McHale. She also is having big problems in her camp. Big enough where her father is no longer going to be her primary coach I hear. I just KNOW she is not going to win the 2011 US Open. No WAY unless she gets ultra favorable seeding and unless other players get hurt. Where does Woz go from here? Hopefully to a coach who will help her develop some useable tennis skills and who will insist on adding some power/weight to her shots, who’ll add variety, try planning a better serve and who will add offense. IF not, she will continue to get beaten by players who have gotten HIP to her style of play who don’t fear her or her defensive style of play in the least, and she WILL fall from the #1 spot. I like the young lady. Seems lovely, but her game is ultra transparent right now and not improving in the least.

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