Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber put friendship aside at US Open
Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber are joined by friendship, Polish roots and cosy coffee chats, but on Thursday they’ll be ruthless in pursuit of a place in the US Open final.tennis Updated: Sep 07, 2016 17:27 IST
Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber are joined by friendship, Polish roots and cosy coffee chats, but on Thursday they’ll be ruthless in pursuit of a place in the US Open final.
It’s an intriguing semi-final clash between a former world number one who has never won a Grand Slam title and the current number two who claimed a first major at the Australian Open in January.
“We are similar in that we are both hard working. I think that hard work pays off. She’s obviously very passionate,” said Wozniacki.
“Angie’s had a great year and I’m happy for her.”
The two friends’ paths have been heading in dramatically different directions this year.
A right ankle injury sidelined 26-year-old Wozniacki for the best part of three months and her enforced absence from the French Open ended a streak of 36 successive appearances at the majors.
He ranking coming into New York was 74.
In contrast, Kerber has appeared in two of the three Slam finals, her success in Melbourne followed by defeat to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon championship match.
The German, two years older at 28, could be number one in the world next week, five years after Wozniacki last held the position.
Wozniacki, Kerber as well as sisters Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska have all grown up on the tour, all boasting Polish blood.
The Radwanskas are Polish-born. Kerber has a Polish father and German mother.
Piotr and Anna Wozniacki left Poland to settle in Denmark when he secured a professional football contract with top Danish side Odense. Caroline was born in the city in 1990.
The four players’ Polish bond is evident in holiday photos and they remain as close as they can be in the cut-throat environment of professional tennis.
“We would still go on vacations, but the problem is like Aga is getting married, so then all of a sudden we’re like, we just want a girls trip, but it’s tough when everyone has their own thing,” said Wozniacki.
“But we hang out and we have coffees and sit and talk and have a good time.
“I think the great thing about our little group is that we have hung out for years and it doesn’t matter who is No. 1 or who is lower ranked, we always have our little clique. We chat and have a laugh.”
There hasn’t been a lot to laugh about for Wozniacki in recent months.
This week, her father even suggested that she was close to retirement despite her reaching a semi-final at the majors for the first time in two years.
Her carefree hitting at the US Open has been interpreted as a sign that for someone with 23 career titles and $20 million in the bank, there are few challenges left -- apart from that elusive first major.
“Being injured and being away from the game you kind of put things in perspective. You’re like, I could get injured again tomorrow and I won’t have another shot out there,” said Wozniacki.
“I’m enjoying it much more now than I was then. Back then I was just trying and grinding for staying at the top of the rankings for as long as possible,” added the Danish star who keeps a second home in New York.
“Now obviously I want to win every match, but it’s different. I’m not the favourite. I’m just going in there as the underdog and going out doing my thing.”
Kerber leads Wozniacki 7-5 in career meetings but they have never met at a Slam.
If the German prevails on Thursday and goes on to dethrone Williams as world number one, Wozniacki will be one of the first to congratulate her coffee club friend.
“It’s something that very few people in the world have ever achieved. I mean, how crazy is it to say that you’re the best in the world at something?
“Doesn’t matter if it’s tennis, football, being a lawyer, whatever it is. It’s really special.”