Denmark‘s Caroline Wozniacki claimed the world number one ranking on Thursday when she breezed into the quarter-finals of the China Open, dethroning American tennis superstar Serena Williams.
The 20-year-old Wozniacki defeated the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova 6-3 6-2 in a third-round clash under the floodlights at the Olympic Green Tennis Centre in Beijing.
Wozniacki, who is the first from her country to reign supreme in the tennis world, will replace Williams, a 13-time grand slam winner, atop the WTA rankings when a new list is issued Monday. She came into the tournament ranked second.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” a smiling Wozniacki said.
“I’ve been playing really well and it’s a really nice moment for me and for my career.”
The blonde Dane paid tribute to Williams, who was forced to withdraw from the China Open due to a nagging foot injury suffered shortly after she won her fourth Wimbledon crown in July.
“Serena is a great champion… it’s a dream for me to achieve what she has achieved. I can learn from players like Serena,” she said.
On court, Wozniacki showed some early jitters, trading two breaks with Kvitova, who beat her in the round of 16 at Wimbledon this year, before finally taking the first set when the Czech dumped a forehand into the net.
In the second set, Wozniacki – the top seed here – hit her stride, running the left-handed Kvitova from side to side and battering her with heavy topspin groundstrokes off both wings.
She raised her arms in triumph after serving out the match, as Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” thundered out of the stadium sound system.
Wozniacki is the 20th player in WTA history to earn the top spot, and the 10th to do so before her 21st birthday.
Of the women in that elite group, half are still playing. Wozniacki earlier this week cited two members of the number one club, Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis, as her “idols” growing up.
Williams, 29, has held the top spot for a total of 123 weeks over her career. Like Wozniacki, she first reached the top spot when she was 20.
Wozniacki, who joined the tour five years ago, was ranked just 64th in 2007. The following year, she won her first WTA title and has not looked back since.
This year, she won titles in Ponte Vedra Beach, Copenhagen, Montreal and New Haven before storming to the winner’s circle at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo last week.
At the US Open, where she was the top seed, she fell to Russia’s Vera Zvonareva in the semi-finals – but that was one of only two losses she has suffered since Wimbledon.
Wozniacki’s lack of a grand slam title has led some to question whether she is worthy of the top spot, but she laughed out such criticism, simply saying a Slam title was definitely her “next goal”.
“I’m still young, so I still have a lot of time ahead of me. I’ve had a fantastic season, and I think I can be proud of this,” she said.
“I should enjoy my moment.”
WTA Tour chief Stacey Allaster lauded Wozniacki’s achievement, saying she was “a very, very deserving world number one”.
“There are only two players this year that have gotten to the fourth round of all four Grand Slams — Caroline and Venus Williams,” Allaster said.
“She’s won more matches than any other player on tour…. Caroline right now is the most consistent player over this 12-month period.”
In other matches in Beijing, China’s Li Na breezed into the quarter-finals, but Russian seventh seed Elena Dementieva was upset by Serbian former number one Ana Ivanovic, who will meet Wozniacki in the quarters.
On the men’s side of the joint WTA/ATP event, world number four Andy Murray and two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling survived second-round scares to advance, keeping the possibility of a semi-final showdown alive.
Murray, the second seed, struggled past Spain’s Albert Montanes in two hard-fought sets, 7-5 6-3, in smoggy conditions so bad that organisers were forced to turn on the lights on the stadium court in the mid-afternoon.
Soderling battled for nearly two hours to defeat another member of the game’s Spanish armada, Nicolas Almagro, 7-5 4-6 6-3.
Spain’s David Ferrer, the eighth seed, defeated Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun in three sets. He will face Soderling in the quarter-finals, while Murray will face big-serving Croatian Ivan Ljubicic.
Buford Balony says: She’s also the No 1 hottest player in tennis. That’s 2 number 1’s at once. Do you agree?