Caroline Wozniacki hardly broken up
MONTREAL -- Caroline Wozniacki long ago inherited the position of Woman on the WTA Tour Whom Everyone Seems to Like, an honorary title that Belgium's Kim Clijsters, another European star with a sunny disposition and smile, seemed to hold forever until she retired. But midway through this year, Wozniacki had a different light thrown on her -- jilted fiancée -- when she went from being seen as half of arguably the most popular sports couple in the world to finding out that golfer Rory McIlroy was breaking off their engagement.
Via a three-minute phone call.
Just as their wedding invitations were going out.
Wozniacki thought he was playing a joke on her.
The story only seemed worse when McIlroy immediately went on a tear, winning the British Open and two other tournaments before gliding into this week's PGA Championship, the last major of the year, being talked about again as Tiger Woods' heir apparent.
A less well-adjusted woman and athlete than Wozniacki might've gone into the tank by now, watching all of that play out publicly. But by all appearances, the 24-year-old Dane has reacted the way the "You're too good for him" faction of her fans probably hoped she would.
She won a tournament title three weeks ago in Istanbul -- her first in nine months -- backing up her statement at Wimbledon that "Life goes on."
Before that, she didn't pull down the blinds and stay in her room binging on all the Oreos and Pringles in the mini bar after she was upset by Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer in the first round at the French Open in late May, just days after she and McIlroy broke up.
When she saw Serena Williams -- who refers to Wozniacki as her #BFF on Twitter -- lose her second-round match at the French days later (there were rumors that Serena was having her own relationship problems with her coach, Patrick Mourtagolou), Wozniacki had an idea. Then she kicked into gear.
"I went to Miami after the French Open, I saw that she lost, and I was like, 'Hey, Serena -- get your butt over here,'" Wozniacki said with a laugh at the Rogers Cup, where she advanced into the third round with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic on Wednesday. "She was going to Palm Beach to train anyway. I was like, 'Well, stop in Miami for a few days.'
"We had a good time, a great time."
(And there are Instagram photos from a club, the beach and a Miami Heat game to prove it.)
Unlike, say, Maria Sharapova, who is pretty candid about admitting she's always had trouble navigating how to have friendships with rivals on the tennis tour, Wozniacki operates with no such qualms. Unlike Serena, who prefers to keep much of her off-court life behind the curtain, Wozniacki is more apt to share. When a power outage hit the Montreal tennis facility Tuesday, Wozniacki was hysterical as she recounted how the players were stuck having to use their cell phones as flashlights in the pitch-black locker room and yelping when they found only freezing water coming out of the shower spigots.
"It's different," she said with a laugh.
Wozniacki and McIlroy both took a lot of heat for perhaps putting their relationship before their careers when they started showing up at each other's events -- him, say, at an exhibition tournament at Madison Square Garden to amble onto the court and hit a few shots with her; her at the Masters in Augusta, wearing white overalls as she caddied for him before the tournament.
Compared with Woods and skier Lindsey Vonn, who have more of an edge, McIlNiacki or WozIlroy -- whatever you wanted to call Wozniacki and McIlroy when they were together -- were downright cuddly.
And so, it is more than a little jarring to see someone we thought we knew, like Wozniacki, now looking back at the rest of the world and essentially saying, You've underestimated me all these years? Just because I'm so famously "nice."
Wozniacki has never quite put it that bluntly.
But if you want to know how someone who isn't cut from the same physical mold as many of the other top players these days still managed to rise to the No. 1 ranking in 2010 and 2011, that inner strength and confidence of hers probably explains it. At 5-foot-10 and a wispy 139 pounds, Wozniacki gives away three or four inches and 15 or more pounds to some rivals, and she's never had groundstrokes that explode off her racket, as so many women do today. Nor is she singularly focused on winning at all costs.
When she was still No. 1, all she heard at stop after stop was how it was somehow "wrong" because she still hadn't won a Grand Slam. And yet again and again she refused to apologize for it. She'd just smile and say she hoped to win a major someday, too.
But that pleasant demeanor hides a fierce independent streak. She had a healthy disregard for all the chatter and negativity beyond the court long before she and McIlroy got together.
The latest example came when Wozniacki announced recently that she is going to run the New York City Marathon in November although the US Open, the last major of the year, doesn't end until the first week of September and she still hasn't won that first Slam.
Her choice baffled a lot of people who told Wozniacki to concentrate on tennis, but it was understandable to a lot of people who have bad breakups and do things like ... um, run marathons to burn off the angst.
Except Wozniacki has been asked directly if the choice was related to her breakup, and she's gasped as if highly amused and said, "Oh, no! Not at all."
"I'm doing it for a kid's charity [New York-based Team for Kids] to get them into sports, get them healthy," she said here at the Rogers Cup. "I thought it would be a good inspiration if I finished a marathon. Then I'm not just talking. I'm actually doing something."
That's Wozniacki. The girl has always known how to shrug off a hit. And then just keep moving on.