Wozniacki’s drama-free passage into round three

  • Suzi Petkovski

This round last year, Caroline Wozniacki escaped from 5-1 and two match points down against unheralded Jana Fett, a miraculous escape that powered her run to the title. It was a much more drama-free passage Wednesday, the defending champion easing into the third round with a 6-1 6-3 win over Johanna Larsson in Margaret Court Arena.

Wozniacki began with a 0-30 deficit on serve then swept 12 straight points to lead 3-0. By the third game, No.77 Larsson was already swatting a ball in frustration. She fell behind 5-1 with a double-fault on breakpoint and the Dane swooped on the first set 6-1 in 27 minutes.

Wozniacki served strongly and returned with surgical precision, making 97 per cent of returns, compared to Larsson’s 67.

Larsson had no answer for Wozniacki's all-court game

The Swede stiffened her resistance in the second, venturing forward a little more and threatening to level for 4-all. But two chances went begging and she was broken for the match, Wozniacki threading a backhand winner down the line on match point.

If drama was lacking, there was at least a new career stat for Wozniacki: her first Swedish opponent in her 159th Grand Slam match. But this was no Nordic thriller, with the Swede always shaping as a comfortable fit for the metronomic Dane.

Better known as a doubles exponent – with 13 career doubles compared to two in singles – Larsson could not pressure Wozniacki sufficiently from the forecourt, nor dictate from the baseline. That’s not a good match-up against someone who can move an opponent around like Wozniacki.

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The 30-year-old Larsson has never won two straight rounds at Melbourne Park, and never beaten a top-five player. It was not happening today, with Wozniacki now 12-1 in second-round matches here. She’s conceded eight games in two rounds.

“I started off really aggressively and served really well,” the winner assessed. “Just tried to stay consistent and serve well.”

Wozniacki was a player transformed after her narrow escape in 2018 against the unheralded Fett, “playing with house money” as she put it for the rest of the tournament.

That win turned the entire narrative of her career. Wozniacki went on to beat No.1 Simona Halep for her belated first major, in her 43rd Grand Slam. The first Dane atop the rankings, Wozniacki also returned to No.1 after a gap of six years – the longest span between reigns in WTA rankings history.

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Seeded No.3 this year, Wozniacki has won more admirers for her professionalism and lack of self-pity in playing with rheumatoid arthritis. She won her 30th career title in Beijing, after her diagnosis.

Next for Wozniacki is a blockbuster third round against former champion and No.30 seed Maria Sharapova or another Swede, Rebecca Peterson.

66 Caroline Wozniacki
38 Johanna Larsson