Caroline Wozniacki needs more offense to defend her No. 1 ranking

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Caroline Wozniacki

Can Caroline Wozniacki‘s defence substitute lack of offense in her game? Our guest blogger Merlisa Lawrence Corbett doubts.

In American Football it’s often said that the best offense is a great defense. But in today’s modern tennis game, offense keeps your opponent on defense and those who attack dominate those who defend.

On the women’s tour, Caroline Wozniacki relied on defense to secure the No.1 ranking. But is her defense enough to win a Grand Slam?

Wozniacki’s game is a throwback to the play of Chris Evert, who beat her opponents through consistency, often counter-punching competition until they succumb to unforced errors. But Evert was at her best when most of her opponents also hung out around at the baseline or played serve and volley.

Caroline Wozniacki

Today, with more athletic players and new racquet technology, the game moves faster and requires aggressive play.  Players like Samantha Stosur attack the ball earlier and with greater accuracy.  Against more offensive-minded players such as Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams, Wozniacki is often outmatched and overpowered.  In fact, although Wozniacki won the most tournaments 2010, she didn’t score victories over Clijsters, Justine Henin, Serena or Venus Williams.

Like former No.1 Jelena Jankovic, Wozniacki is a fierce counter puncher, whose ability to retrieve balls keeps her in points longer. But unlike Jankovic, Wozniacki does not possess a forehand that can absorb the firepower unleashed by the big hitters. Instead Wozniacki’s forehand falls apart against the heavy hitters and she seems at a lost when consistent retrieving fails to net her points.  She sometimes retreats and resorts to defensive lobs that serve as target practice for players with powerful forehands.

Perhaps in the brief off-season Wozniacki developed some offensive moves.  If not, she will be just another player in the series of recent slamless world No.1s.

Merlissa is a former sports writer and tennis junkie, and she wrote the foreword for Arthur R. Ashe, Jr.’s “A Hard Road to Glory: Track and Field”. She plays in USTA League. (photos: Ralf Reinecke)


  1. Nice article. It will be good to see how things are going to work out with Caro. She’s a smart and hard-working girl, and I’m quite sure she’s gotta be working on those things. Still, I would always bet on Kim,Serena, even on Jelena against her. We’ll see.

  2. The thing is that a player can become a world number one with defencive game, ’cause she can score a win against a lot of opponents, but that game in most of cases won’t bring her win against great opponents. If you want to win a Slam, you just gotta play agressive, ’cause against Serena, Kim and Justine and some others, with that running around and just returning the ball, you just don’t stand a chance.

  3. IMO, if Caroline’s dad hasn’t told her to work on offense yet.. He’s probably never going to.

    That said, I think she could really improve her game with a new coach.

  4. Interesting view! You should read her tweets: she doesn’t have an offensive game but she has an offensive mind – probably more than Dementieva/Jankovic/Safina. So there is a higher probability that she will make a slam. But she needs to do it this year. See Dementieva/Jankovic/Safina again: if you don’t make it when you are on the rise, unfortunately, you don’t make it later.

  5. Other thing to note is:

    When Caroline does try to go for winners.. The ball often sails on her and goes long. She needs to learn how to control the ball better.

  6. completey asinine. If offense is what it takes to win a grand slam, then Dinara Safina should have won one when she was on the rise. Sure, Safina’s weakness was her mental fragility, but she proves that being offensive isn’t going to win you a grand slam. This article is WRONG. Offense is not better than defense in tennis, it’s just that to be a champion you require BOTH. You also have to have the mind of a champion, the conviction to win, and the focus to execute in big moments. There isn’t an aspect of tennis that is worth more than the other. Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, and Serena Williams all have excellent retrieving abilities.

  7. I think Caroline has had so much success especially because of her defense. Nowadays when this style is no longer “in” her opponents don’t have many weapons which could beat it. They are not able to outsmart her and outhitting her doesn’t work neither because she just returns everything back. I think she was very smart to choose this approach as she took advantage of the fact that very few players have attacking game good enough to withstand the pressure. It’s UE after UE most of the time.


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