It’s hard to remember such a long list of notable unseeded players in a women’s Slam draw. One of those players is Caroline Wozniacki who has dropped in the rankings following poor form and injury as she was sidelined for the entire clay court season after going over on her ankle back in April. Wozniacki spoke in her Eastbourne press conference about the tough draws she’s received at Slams… and the draw gods weren’t too kind again as she will play the number 13 seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round of Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Wozniacki has played all three weeks of the grass court season, returning in Nottingham. Wozniacki won her first match back against Cagla Buyukakcay but lost her next two to Anett Kontaveit (7-6 3-6 5-7, Nottingham R2) and Yanina Wickmayer (4-6 7-6 2-6, Birmingham, R1). Wozniacki had a decent run in Eastbourne, winning two matches against Alizé Cornet and Sam Stosur before losing out in a high quality three setter against Monica Puig in the third round. I was impressed with Wozniacki’s level though; she was hitting the forehand well against both Cornet and Puig, and it was nice to see her throwing in the slice, which can be a valuable asset on the grass. Considering she’s only three tournaments in, I think she showed some positive signs in Eastbourne.
Kuznetsova’s had an excellent year up till now with the highlights being a title in Sydney, final in Miami, semi-finals in Prague, quarter-finals in Rome and last 16 showing at the French Open. Her first outing on the grass this year in Eastbourne was not a successful one; Kuznetsova missed five match points to Kateryna Bondarenko, losing out, 6-2 4-6 5-7. It was a fascinating match and there were some gripping rallies (see recap here). Kuznetsova did crumble a bit mentally towards the end.
Head-to-head record: Wozniacki leads Kuznetsova, 6-5 in their head-to-head. Kuznetsova won their last match via retirement in Zhuhai at the end of 2015. Their last completed match was in Eastbourne last year where Wozniacki came back from a set down to win, 6-7(7) 6-3 6-1. Kuznetsova won their two matches prior to the Eastbourne clash but it is worth noting that Wozniacki is 2-0 on grass.
Interesting stat: Kuznetsova is a three-time quarter-finalist at Wimbledon (2003, 2005 and 2007) but hasn’t made it past the third round since 2009. Wozniacki has never made it to the quarter-finals before, but has been consistent in reaching the second week of Wimbledon five times in the last seven years.
Final thoughts: This is a horrible draw for both players, but it will be an exciting early match-up for the fans and will surely get a show court. The head-to-head has been close and peak Kuznetsova has weapons that can overwhelm Wozniacki. The Dane though has a much more solid base level and furthermore, is generally the more comfortable player on grass. Kuznetsova’s confidence may have been shaken a tad after the loss to Bondarenko, while Wozniacki was very positive in press after her loss to Puig in Eastbourne.
Surprisingly little deliberation here, going for Wozniacki to prevail…