Match Points Down, Safarova Rises Up
Published February 15, 2012 12:00
DOHA, Qatar - Playing in her first match since losing the World No.1 ranking, Caroline Wozniacki suffered another setback, dropping her opening match at the Qatar Total Open on Wednesday to Lucie Safarova, 46 64 76(3).
In a match where the breaks were few and far between - there were only four breaks in 32 service games - the two players went toe to toe from the baseline, Wozniacki countering Safarova's big lefty groundstrokes with some very solid retrieving and court craft. The Dane - now ranked No.4 - finally got an opening with Safarova serving at 4-5 in the third set, falling behind 0-40 - triple match point. But the Czech won the next seven points in a row to get herself back into the match and ended up winning a routine tie-break to finish it off.
"I was impatient in the first set but then it came together," Safarova said. "I started keeping the ball in play more and pushing her to her forehand. Then when I got the chance, I was killing the ball. That was a good tactic for me.
"Caroline is a big fighter, getting everything back from every position, so you have to be very consistent and choose the right moments to attack."
"I had three match points in the third set and didn't take them. Lucie served three very good serves," Wozniacki said. "Of course it's very disappointing right now but I need to move on and try to do better in the next one."
The pair had split their two previous meetings, Safarova winning on the clay of Stuttgart in 2010 and Wozniacki winning indoors at Copenhagen in 2011. Now Safarova is 2-1 in the head-to-head and collected her sixth Top 5 victory.
"It's always like this - when you are a top player, every player who comes to play you has nothing to lose," Safarova said. "We watch each other and we know their strengths and weaknesses, and we try to apply the tactics.
"She was also playing her first match and I had a match already. It's good to have a match in the bag at a tournament because each tournament is a little bit different - the surface, surroundings. But I think we both played well today."
Wozniacki was asked about her next steps. "To be honest, I just want to get out of here, because it's not really fun to be here when you've lost a match like that," the 21-year-old commented. "I just hope I can win some matches in Dubai next week and do better than here. You just need to go with it."
Awaiting Safarova in the third round will be No.14 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who fired 10 aces and showed some steely nerves as well, rallying from 4-1 down in the second set, to get past fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko, 64 64.
Kuznetsova leads Safarova in their head-to-head, 3-2. In their last meeting, at Sydney this year, Safarova won when Kuznetsova retired with heat illness.