Caroline Wozniacki free to revive game
If you were Caroline Wozniacki's best friend, listening to the story of her breakup with Rory McIlroy after they sent out wedding invitations, you'd be gearing up for a weekend full of tissues and a box of pink wine. We might never know all the details, but we don't have to. Given McIlroy's recent comments at the BMW PGA Championship, it was epic.
"The problem is mine. The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realize that I wasn't ready for all that marriage entails," McIlroy said. "I wish Caroline all the happiness she deserves and thank her for the great times we've had."
Girl, he doesn't deserve you.
But if there's a silver lining amid the rubble, it's that Wozniacki can become more than the latter half of the celebrity couple Rory & Caroline. Ever since the two started dating in 2011, Wozniacki has added to her already insane amount of global travel by using her limited free time to see McIlroy play. And not just free time; she recently pulled out of a WTA tournament in Rome, citing a knee injury, and flew to Dubai to watch McIlroy play golf.
That devotion -- she even caddied for him -- wasn't without its cost. Wozniacki went from being the No. 1 player on the WTA Tour to being in the same "golf celebrity scene" as Paulina Gretzky, minus the Golf Digest cover.
The reason Wozniacki could be so easily eclipsed by her relationship was that her game has stagnated. Who could blame her if some of that ambition got misplaced while she was picking out designs for a wedding invitation?
In eight tournaments so far this year, her best results were reaching two semifinals: in Dubai, where she lost to Venus Williams, and in Monterrey, where she lost to Ana Ivanovic. Wozniacki was better than that back in 2011, when she was the top seed at major tournaments. She didn't win them -- seeming to hit a wall in her development as a player -- but her consistency and good health meant she was in the conversation in every tournament she entered.
Now ranked No. 14, she is a classic counterpuncher, excellent on defense but without a signature element. She has cycled through coaches and rackets looking for a solution but has slid down the rankings.
She is 23 years old, which has always been middle-aged for a tennis player, although the Williams sisters and this generation of gracefully aging players have shown you can have success in your 30s. Wozniacki may not have much time left to add speed to her serve or hone other skills, but it's not too late.
For too long, the parenthetical phrase behind her name has been "Rory McIlroy's girlfriend." That's not her fault, but the media often focuses on a female athlete's relationship or clothes -- McIlroy's white golf belts probably don't get a lot of scrutiny.
Wozniacki needs to reclaim her narrative.
Anything better than a first-round loss in the French Open is gravy. But once Wozniacki gets though the initial pain of the breakup, once she gets through reading McIlroy's comments like "Everyone has been through breakups, and it's obviously very, very difficult," then she can start a healing process that could ultimately yield a better and more focused tennis player.
Don't you just feel for her, though? If Wozniacki ever seemed like an inaccessible personality, she just became the most relatable person in the world. Even if we hadn't set a date and told our friends, we've all been though something similar. Who wouldn't want to see her second act be a personal and professional triumph?