AUCKLAND, New Zealand - No.5 seed Caroline Wozniacki's Antipodean farewell tour continued to be a victory lap at the ASB Classic with a 6-1, 6-0 first-round defeat of local wildcard Paige Mary Hourigan in just 53 minutes.
The Dane, who announced last month that the Australian Open will be the final tournament of her illustrious career, had opened her campaign yesterday by partnering good friend and fellow former World No.1 Serena Williams to a 6-2, 6-4 doubles win over Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya, and today she was rarely troubled by an opponent making her WTA main draw debut, conceding only two points on serve across the entire match.
"It was a good start to the tournament," assessed Wozniacki afterwards. "I played pretty well, I served well. I think she was probably nervous going out there playing against me on Centre Court - it's not easy to go out there and play free. You just try to think about yourself and what you're out there to do."
Having graduated with a business degree from Georgia Tech University in 2018, World No.447 Hourigan enjoyed a career-best pro season in 2019, picking up her second ITF W15 title in Cancun in March, beating US Open junior champion Maria Camila Osorio Serrano in the final. But having neither beaten a Top 400 player nor even faced a Top 100 player in her career, the gulf between the 22-year-old New Zealander and the 2018 Australian Open champion was all too apparent.
A nervy start from Hourigan did not help matters: the home player struggled to get on the board in the opening stages, and within 13 minutes she trailed 0-5, having won only three points. By contrast Wozniacki, impenetrable as ever from the baseline, was confident enough to carry over some of her doubles play with a handful of delightful touch volleys.
Staring down the barrel of a bagel, Hourigan finally rallied, saving two set points with fine aggression to hold for the first time - but it was too late to save a set in which she had offered up 19 unforced errors in 23 minutes.
There was a touch of ill fortune for Hourigan at the start of the second set as, holding game point in the first game, a shower temporarily halted proceedings. On the restart, her brief momentum was halted with a forehand pass from Wozniacki, who had been anticipating an improvement from her opponent, and who swiftly resumed her stranglehold of the match.
"I knew eventually she was just going to go for it even more because she had nothing to lose," said Wozniacki afterwards. "So I had to step it up as well. When she started hitting more aggressively I thought I did that well, I moved around the ball pretty well."
Five aces from the World No.39 exemplified her strength on serve, while she was able to nail passes with ease whenever Hourigan attempted a move into the forecourt. Hourigan's second-set tally of 11 unforced errors was an improvement on the first set, but still nowhere near low enough to bother Wozniacki as the 29-year-old moved inexorably towards the bagel she had barely been denied in the first set.
Up next for the 2015 and 2018 runner-up will be the winner of an all-American derby between 2017 champion Lauren Davis and qualifier Varvara Lepchenko.