Has there ever been a more scrutinized world No. 1 than Caroline Wozniacki? The focus and pressure probably won't diminish until one of two things happens: she wins the long-awaited Slam title or she loses the top ranking. Our experts look at what we should expect from her in 2012.
What must Wozniacki do to finally end her (young) Slam-less career?
Greg Garber: Look, Caroline Wozniacki is a delightful player, with dash and skill and charisma. For 90 percent of her matches, against the Daniela Hantuchovas and Nadia Petrovas of the world, her relentless defending game is good enough to win. But when she gets to the stage of a major, someone bigger, stronger or more aggressive finds a way to beat her. Bottom line: She needs to go for it, shorten points and hit some winners in big spots.
Kamakshi Tandon: Improve her forehand, serve better, play more aggressively and schedule better -- the list is well-established. But getting it done is another thing altogether. It's unlikely her game will ever become big enough to beat the big guns consistently, but she's solid and physically gutsy enough to be a potential Slam winner if she keeps improving and getting stronger. Last season, however, she seemed to be going backward and really needs to turn that around before she gets left behind. In what could be a first step, Wozniacki has finally hired a real, identifiable personal coach in Richardo Sanchez, who helped take Jelena Jankovic to No. 1.
Ravi Ubha: For all the talk of Wozniacki needing to be more aggressive, it's not as easy -- especially at this level -- to make such changes and flick the proverbial switch. She just doesn't have a big serve and forehand. Although she can certainly continue to improve those shots, I suspect her best opportunity of winning a major will come from doing what she does best -- being smart on court, retrieving and making her opponent hit that one extra shot. Unfortunately for Wozniacki, Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters are back (well, for the time being), and Petra Kvitova is no fluke.
Matt Wilansky: Somehow find a way to add a little juice to her game and pray to the tennis lords that the legitimate heavy hitters are having bad biorhythm days. At this point, Wozniacki kind of is who she is. And there's nothing wrong with that (assuming racking up Grand Slam trophies isn't a priority). Sure, she can pull off a win over a Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka or Kvitova on any given day, but to beat multiple offensive-minded players in a single tournament seems like too much to ask.
If she were to break through with a major in 2012, which one would it be -- and why?
Garber: I think the U.S. Open -- where she's reached the final four the past three years -- represents Wozniacki's best chance to win a Grand Slam singles title. With a new coach and a lighter schedule, maybe she'll be the last one standing in New York. Maybe. Maybe not.
Tandon: Probably the U.S. Open, where she's had her best results. The quicker hard courts suit her game, and she's well-grooved after a long series -- sometimes too long, in her case -- of warm-up events going into the tournament. But she can play well on most surfaces. The biggest key for her is avoiding heavyweights like Serena, Clijsters & Co. because she rarely beats them at big events.
Ubha: Wozniacki's best results at majors have come on hard courts. She, of course, reached her lone Grand Slam final in New York and made it to the semis in Melbourne and New York in 2011. Based on that, any breakthrough would likely result on hard. She certainly looks uncomfortable playing on grass.
Wilansky: It may seem counterintuitive, but the retrieving-minded Wozniacki could benefit from the faster courts of Wimbledon -- if she can learn to properly take advantage of her opponents' power. The faster the ball comes, the faster she can hit it back. But Wozniacki has never looked terribly comfortable at the All England Club with nary a single quarterfinal appearance in her career.
Fill in the blank: Caroline Wozniacki will lose her No. 1 ranking by …
Garber: Maybe mid-February? Kvitova reached the Australian Open quarters last year -- and now she comes to Melbourne a reigning Wimbledon and year-end champion. Wozniacki has a new coach and the unsettled circumstances could conspire to see her leave by the time the quarters roll around. Perhaps a step back now will set the stage for what she really should be focusing on: a major title.
Tandon: March. Kvitova is right up behind her in the rankings, and Wozniacki has the Australian Open semifinals and the Indian Wells title to defend in the first quarter of the season and a few other titles and finals around this period.
Ubha: January. The competitor that she is, Wozniacki wouldn't want to lose the No. 1 ranking after the Australian Open (or at any time). But at least she wouldn't have to answer questions about holding top spot without a Slam. Relief. Although Kvitova has more points to defend than Wozniacki at Aussie Open warm-up events, Kvitova will make her move in Melbourne.
Wilansky: Petra Kvitova is just over 100 points behind Wozniacki in the world rankings. But unless Woz loses early in Melbourne, she likely won't concede the top spot until mid-March, where she is the defending Indian Wells champion. Anything longer is gravy.