Dubai Ladies Club served up a fine treat for tennis enthusiasts as it welcomed former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki for a heart to heart with her fans.
Wozniacki, who had withdrawn from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis championship because of a knee injury, opened up about her journey to the top of tennis. Having started her professional career at the tender age of 15, the Dane is deemed a role model by many young tennis enthusiasts who idolise her.
Wozniacki is well aware of her influence over this youthful audience and tries her best to maintain a positive image.
“I think I always try to behave well on the court,” Wozniacki told Sport360, “I know there are a lot of kids looking up to me and watching me play, but to be honest the most important thing is to just be yourself.”
She possesses a special affinity for young tennis players and always tries to connect with them as her mentor Venus Williams did with her when she was 12 years old.
“I try always to make time, especially for the kids, because I know how much it means to them,” said the 25-year-old.
“I remember when I was 12 and I got to hit a few balls with Venus Williams and she said, ‘yeah sure come to the court and hit with me’ and that just gave me so much. I was the happiest girl on the planet for months.
“I want to pass that on as well, being a tennis player is one thing, but being able to give back is so much more.”
Wozniacki gave away an autographed tennis ball to one of her young fans present at the club, 10-year-old William Crowther, who is a keen tennis and Wozniacki fan.
Wozniacki’s path to becoming a top tennis star was not one without bumps and detours.
Her greatest challenge came in the form of the negative and often destructive criticism from people around her when she started out, but that did not stop her from becoming the first female tennis player from a Scandinavian country to hold the world No.1 rank.
“Denmark has never had any great tennis players in the past, we have a few male players, but female players we really didn’t. So I was told from the start ‘oh she can play a little bit of tennis, but she is never going to become good enough’,” she said.
Wozniacki took the criticism in her stride and decided to use the love and support of her family to empower her and prove the scoffers wrong.
The Danish star currently lies at No.19 in the WTA rankings and is all set to put her best foot forward for the Qatar Total Open that starts on the February 21, 2016.
I love the fact that I live in Dubai now but I must say it is very ‘dangerous’ for someone who loves to shop as there are so many places to do that over here.
When I came here I was like ‘Oh my God, this is not good’. I don’t shop often but when I do my credit card takes a beating. I spent part of my holiday here end of last year with my best friend Belinda (Bencic) and we went shopping. It was just a disaster, money wise.
We have all those players parties and professional events with sponsors and we’re used to always being in sports outfits. So that day I went shopping with Belinda and we just went crazy for nice dresses and shoes. We bought Louboutins and many different dresses and of course, for one day it’s quite expensive.
But you know during the year we don’t do that stuff. We don’t go on these big shopping sprees, so that day was really big and we were like ‘what have we done?’ We’re not used to spending that much money for ourselves in just one day.
But we were planning for the whole year; ‘this dress is for the pre-Wimbledon party and that one for this’. So that kind of justifies the whole shopping trip and the massive bill. We said ‘we deserved it, we had a pretty good year, we can treat ourselves’.
On a different note, I’m so happy and proud of Belinda as she made her top-10 debut this week. She’s an amazing girl, she plays obviously great tennis and she’s super young and it’s such a big achievement. I’m sure she can go even higher.
Those paying attention to the tennis action in Dubai over the past couple of days may have noticed a new trend developing.
Evidence of it has come with 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina making an on-court coaching visit to Svetlana Kuznetsova, ex-world No60 Julie Coin doing the same for Madison Brengle, while former world No1 Justine Henin was courtside for Elina Svitolina’s clash.
The presence of female coaches in the tennis world – both on the men’s and women’s tours – has not necessarily been a common sight, but it looks like quite a few former WTA players are getting back into the game as coaches with Henin being the latest to join the pool, as she serves as a consultant to Svitolina’s team.
On the men’s side, Andy Murray became the highest profile player to hire a female coach when he started working with French ex-world No1 Amelie Mauresmo mid-2014.
Coin, also a Frenchwoman, retired from the sport at the end of last season and immediately joined Brengle as her travelling coach.
“She’s a friend of mine so when I told her I’m going to stop at the end of the year, first thing she said was ‘oh cool, can I hire you?’,” Coin told Sport360 ahead of Brengle’s second round against Petra Kvitova Wednesday.
The 33-year-old was taken by surprise but accepted the offer and has been travelling with Brengle since the start of 2016.
“She has her coach in Florida and I’m travelling with her for certain weeks so she’s not all alone on the road. And with this new rule of on-court coaching and stuff, it’s also helpful to have someone,” explained Coin.
“So far it has been really easy, she’s really easy-going, she has the American fighting spirit, she’s not scared of anyone or anything so it makes it a lot easier.
“The French tend to be a little more negative and stuff but so far it’s really easy, I don’t feel pressure, it’s really good. And she’s having good wins so far.”
Brengle beat Ekaterina Makarova, who was ranked inside the top-10 last year, in her Dubai debut match on Monday and will face off with another lefty in Kvitova Wednesday.
“She’s played (German lefty Angelique) Kerber twice in Australia (last month), and now she’s playing twice in a row, I don’t know how many lefties are on tour but she’s going to play all of them,” joked Coin, who added that she can sense a rising trend in former female players rejoining the tour as coaches.
“I think I can understand what she’s going through sometimes because women, we all think the same, and because I played on tour also, I know some of the feelings she can get during a match,” she added.
“So it’s easier maybe for her also to talk to me and share some stuff,” said Coin. “It’s good to have some women on the tour coaching because I think maybe we’re the best one that can understand everything because we went through that.
“I hope more and more players are going to do it. It’s not that easy because as women we want to have a family. If you can travel with the whole family then it’s okay but it’s like having the same life as you had on tour so it’s about whether you’re willing to do it or not after retiring.