Caroline Wozniacki -01- (DEN) def [Q] Monica Niculescu -92- (ROU) 75 61
There’s no love lost between World #1 Caroline Wozniacki and this year’s Goliath-slayer, Monica Niculescu. During and after her victory, Caroline accused the 30-year-old Romanian of gamesmanship. She claimed Monica was grunting through the ball and continuing her grunt right up to Caroline’s point of contact. At one point, the Australian Open Champ complained to the chair umpire: “She knows it’s the only way she can win.”
A turbulent first set
Niculescu has played inspired tennis this week. For the first time in seven years, she had to qualify to reach the main draw. Her opponent in the final round of qualifying? Last year’s Semifinalist Andrea Petkovic. In the 1st-Round, she upset this year’s headliner Maria Sharapova, before eliminating the 14-seed Magdalena Rybarikova to reach the Round of 16.
Thursday night’s clash was Monica’s 9th with Wozniacki. While she had never earned a victory over the World #1, Niculescu knew she could compete. Momentum was on her side after a tactically disruptive win over Sharapova. Not to mention, she came within inches of beating Caroline during their last meeting in Madrid’s 1st-Round last year. Caroline had to battle for the victory 75 67(3) 64.
In set-1, Caroline was up 4-1 by the second changeover. There had already been three breaks of serve. The match was messy, off-speed, and though she was down, the crazy rhythm played into Monica’s hands.
Niculescu managed to hold through a long deuce game to reach 2-4, then got back on serve by dropping several exquisite slices, breaking Wozniacki at love. Monica was in Caroline’s head. Complaints about Monica’s grunting followed. Before long, Niculescu had won 4 consecutive games and was serving for the set.
All credit to Wozniacki. Down 4-5, she had it out with the chair umpire over Niculescu’s elongated grunts. With the frustration finally off her chest, she completely loosened up, broke Monica to keep the set alive, and won five straight games. In fact, Niculescu would only win a single service-game the rest of the way.
Up Next: Angelique Kerber
With the World #1 ranking on the line between Wozniacki and Halep this week, Caroline clearly has the tougher road to the Final. Halep has earned quick wins over Makarova and Sevastova, and will face the World #48 Cici Bellis in the Quarters.
Meanwhile, after wins over Witthoeft and Niculescu, Caroline will now face the sport’s most dangerous southpaw: 2-time Grand Slam Champion and 2014 Doha Finalist Angelique Kerber. Angie and Caroline last played in the 2016 US Open Semifinals, where Kerber won 64 63, before winning her second Grand Slam Title of the year.
Just 3-weeks ago, this 27-year-old won the biggest title of her career, capturing the 2018 Australian Open title. With the victory, she regained the World #1 ranking for the first time in 5-years, and has now held the sport’s top position for a total of 70-weeks. A 3-time Grand Slam Finalist, she started the new year by reaching her 51st career Singles Final in Auckland, and with the win in Melbourne, now owns 28 Singles titles in all. She’s qualified for the WTA Finals 5-times; and last November, captured the year-end championship with wins over four of the sport’s top-5 players. Commpeting in her 9th Qatar Total Open, from Denmark – Please welcome 2-time Doha Finalist and the #1 Player in the World, Caroline Wozniacki
This 30-year-old played through qualifying and upset 2-time Doha Champion Maria Sharpova Monday night in the 1st-Round. Last night, she outlasted the #14-seed Magdalena Rybarikova to reach tonight’s Round of 16. Ranked as high as #28 in the World, she is an on-court tactical artist who mixes pace and precision to keep her opponents off-balance. She now owns 3 WTA Singles titles, and last year in Hobart, started 2017 by reaching her 8th career tour-level Final. She went on to become a Grand Slam Doubles Finalist for the first time at Wimbledon; and in September, earned her 4th career win over a top-10 opponent, defeating World #7 Johanna Konta at the China Open. Competing in her 7th Qatar Total Open, she is one of 4 Romanians through to the Round of 16. From Romania – Please welcome, Monica Niculescu