Caroline Wozniacki went out in three hairy sets to Kaia Kanepi in Tokyo yesterday.
Cue the expected, derisory chorus calling into question not just her #1 ranking and style of play, but also her taste in men, not to mention the very essence of her being.
Things don’t improve very much once you get past all that blather either, as the narrative surrounding Caro’s now been hijacked by two equally blinkered points of view.
Depending on whom you speak with, losses like this are either simply symptomatic of the passive nature of her game we’ve come to know so much of over the past two years, or inexplicable, inexcusable shockers.
The truth, as always, is sandwiched somewhere inconspicuously in between the two extremes.
Passive doesn’t win Slams. We know this. Passive may bag you shedloads of ranking points but it isn’t nearly enough to beat the tour’s elite. We hold these truths to be self-evident because they are (and, consequently, need not be drilled into us anymore).
But passive sometimes also gets beaten at the lower tier events by lower ranked talents in their element. And when that happens you always seem to get a raft of analysts feigning shock, horror – disgust even.
Yet then, as now, the loss is down to passive being trumped by daring, unflinching, aggressive play. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t let’s go pretending Kaia’s incapable of that.
The other unhelpful extreme is to pretend that absolutely nothing has been remiss with Miss Wozniacki this year. There was that loss to Petko in Miami in which she posted a staggering 52 UFEs. Followed by two consecutive losses to Goerges in April. Perhaps understandably thereafter, even in matches she’s won, her confidence has seemed dented in a way which simply wasn’t a problem even 8 months back.
Bleat all you want about the merits (and demerits) of passive play, but it’s kind of a big deal when a player that struggles to hit double digit winners begins hitting double digit UFEs – sometimes on a scale that would be considered triple digits for anyone else.