Wozniacki ‘feeling great’ at U.S. Open

In the absence of Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki is making a solid showing as the No. 1 seed at the U.S. Open. Having dropped just two games in her opening match, the 20-year-old Dane did a little better than that on another day of heat and wind at Flushing Meadows as she destroyed Chang Kai-Chen of Taipei 6-0, 6-0.

Wozniacki was radiant afterward.

“I’m feeling great,” she said. “I feel fresh and I’m just happy to be injury free and everything is perfect.”

Last year’s finalist had been suffering from an ankle problem going into Wimbledon, but after a few weeks she returned with a vengeance, winning titles in Copenhagen, Montreal and New Haven. The confidence showed as she outplayed Kai-Chen.

“I don’t give any points away,” she offered by way of explaining the score line. “I think that’s one of my strengths.”

It says something for the development of women’s tennis in Asia that Wozniacki’s next opponent will also be from Taiwan, following Yung-Jan Chan’s victory over the experienced Austrian Tamira Paszek by 6-3, 6-3.

Assuming she survives that, Wozniacki may find herself at a different level — facing Maria Sharapova. Resplendent in a new deep purple dress, Sharapova opened the evening session with a sweeping 6-1, 6-2 victory over Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic.

If all that seemed a bit straight forward, it was American players who provided the day’s drama — for better or worse. For Beatrice Capra, it was definitely the ‘better’ category as she upset the talented No. 18 seed Aravane Rezai 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. This surprising result provided the second big victory from an 18-year-old American in two days following Ryan Harrison’s defeat of Ivan Ljubicic.

Capra, the daughter of a first generation Italian family based in Maryland, got into the draw as a result of receiving the wild card after winning the special tournament set up by the USTA at their Boca Raton headquarters last week. That was home territory for Capra, who trains under the supervision of John Evert, at the same facility.

“I never expected to get a chance to play in the wild card playoff so I just played so freely and each match gave me more confidence,” Capra said. “I never would have thought I would be in the third round here today.”

Solid from the back court with a good serve, Capra was not tipped to be the one to make the breakthrough from all the talented youngsters under Evert’s tutelage. But in recent months she has become tougher mentally and that enabled her to shrug off the loss of the second set to Rezai and battle on to victory.

“My defense was really good today,” she said. “But I think for sure I am trying to be more aggressive and working my way up towards the net and closing out points. I think that will help me a lot.”

She will need all the help she can get in the next round when she plays someone she admits never having even spoken to. Yes, Beatrice will be playing Sharapova. Suddenly that’s the big time for Capra, who expected to be watching the first week on television before playing in the juniors. But at least she will be able to lean on the advice of someone who knows all about the big time. Chris Evert will be on the phone as she has been a couple of times already this week.

“She has helped me a lot,” said Capra.

Told that Capra had said she was a player she had always looked up to, the outwardly regal Sharapova revealed a side of her that the public does not often see. Admitting that she gets shy when offered compliments, Sharapova offered, “It’s really strange because I’ve always had a difficult time accepting when little kids tell me they want to be just like me. It’s a bit overwhelming and a bit of a shock. I mean, I’m certainly far from perfect. I have many things I’m not good at. I always say to them, ‘You should want to be better than me.’”

In the next round, Capra will be trying to be better than Sharapova — but it won’t be easy.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands could have used a bit of help as she tried to close out her match against Germany’s Andrea Petkovic on the Grandstand. The whole match seemed to be encapsulated in the tenth game of the third set when Mattek-Sands served. First, she had to dig herself out of 0-40 as Petkovic came up with a couple of great winners. This she did brilliantly, first with a sliced drop shot winner off the backhand followed a big backhand pass and then a big first serve.

Then another winning drop shot took the 25-year-old American to match point. But she netted a forehand. Sprinting for a mishit, Bethanie earned herself another match point but she couldn’t handle the speed of the Petkovic service return. There was yet another match point but that, too, went begging as she put a backhand wide.

Eventually a jubilant Petkovic, who, earlier, had been warned for saying something naughty, wrapped up the break back with a big forehand. Two games later Mattek-Sands went down 0-40 on her serve and the German didn’t need three match points. She clinched it on the first when her chastened opponent put a weak forehand into the net. An opportunity lost.