Groeneveld wants Wozniacki to shine again
Full interview with Sven Groeneveld for Danish newspaper Politiken
GROENEVELD WANTS WOZNIACKI TO SHINE AGAIN
Developing specific Grand Slam mindset ultimate 2012 goal
Caroline Wozniacki tops the WTA ranking at the end of the year for the second consecutive time. A big achievement, but the lacking of a Grand Slam title stays talk of the town when it regards her status as world number one. Coach Sven Groeneveld plays an important role in Wozniacki’s career and knows what she has to do to fulfill her ultimate 2012 mission.
By Franklin Stoker
Everybody has an opinion about Wozniacki. Very consistent, winning smaller tournaments, but too defensively and a little too light for the big tournaments. These are just four comments which has been heard much often. On Grand Slam level, the Danish star reached the semifinals in Melbourne and New York, but knew early exits in Paris and London this season. Not the true status you may expect of a world number one.
Groeneveld supported and coached Wozniacki at every Slam in 2011 and was her voice via her father Piotr. The experienced Dutchman analyzes the Grand Slam issue: “It is not about Caroline’s lacking qualities, not at all. The main thing about is the mindset and preparation before and during a Slam”, tells Groeneveld in the office of his new Tennis Acadamy in Amsterdam. “I have discussed this with Caroline and her father in Istanbul during the WTA Masters. I said to them they have to realize that Grand Slam tennis does not last a whole year, but two weeks and seven matches. The main objective is winning these seven matches. It does not matter who your opponent may be, it is all about keeping a two-week focus where you have to keep your routines and work very specific to that big goal. Their focus was not into this, a different Grand Slam mindset. They thought more about being the world number one and what do to on keeping that position instead of taking care of the perfect conditions to win a Slam.”
The former coach of Mary Pierce and Michael Stich thinks it is not unusual how Wozniacki takes her steps in her career. “Let’s not forget Caroline is only 21 years-old. She has a lot of things on front of her. The next step is to focus on a Grand Slam, without any doubt she can handle this kind of pressure”, knows Groeneveld. He thinks the 2009 US Open finalist should look more critical at her schedule. “Caroline has showed how steady she can be. So the next step is to play less tournaments, maybe one or two, not much. For example, is it really necessary to play Madrid, Rome and Brussels back-to-back, while Roland Garros starts the next week? She played these tournaments, had some good results and won Brussels for example. But during the next tournament, you can meet an in-form opponent like Daniela Hantuchova at Roland Garros and need your focus at hundred percent. And is it really necessary to play a hard court tournament (Copenhagen, red.) before Wimbledon? The most important thing is to keep a focus before and during a Grand Slam tournament. And maybe it is tough to keep it while you already in competition for some weeks. So that is something Caroline and her team has to do different. She was busy of making the most of her whole tennis season, defending the number position, which is an understandable approach. But it is not favorable if you want to win a Slam. It is no ‘brain searching’ but just a matter of making the right choices.”
With already 18 singles titles on the WTA tour, Groeneveld does not want to speak about pressure on Wozniacki during Slams. “Ok, everybody puts the pressure on her and her father since she have become number one, but it does not bother her. Caroline has proved she is a very stable player. The only thing is that she has not worked specific towards a Grand Slam”, tells Groeneveld. He also explains that saving energy during a Slam can be very important. “It is also a matter of knowing how to ‘kill’ your opponent. Most of the time Caroline takes the lead during a match, but so far it has happened too much her opponent comes back in the match. It is like she is stabilizing when she is leading in the match. That is also an important factor of Grand Slam tennis. Getting better and better during the tournament. Caroline has played too many matches that took too much time, than you know things getting difficult in the advanced stage of the tournament. It is a matter of knowing you have to keep dominating to save energy before the next match. For example, a nice anecdote was my work with Monica Seles. Her mother kept track of time duration of every game, and analyzed this with her daughter. It was just all about saving time and energy for the next match. It sounds like a weird example, but this is a true Grand Slam mindset”, sounds his lesson.
Groeneveld has recent experience in coaching a player to a Grand Slam title.“The same situation appeared when Ana Ivanovic won Roland Garros in 2008. We created a very good mindset by using strong patterns, in terms of practice, days-off or type of food. We did this in a small team, not with parents or friends. Just a couple of people. A lot of people think it has something to do on being superstitious, but it is the routine that works. It is not a guarantee for the title, but you are increasing your chances for sure.”
Wozniacki vs Grand Slam winners
So why could Na Li, Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur record those big wins. Groeneveld gives a clear insight. “Kvitova has had her ups and downs this season. She did not record any good results after winning Wimbledon. I don’t know nothing about her preparation, but she was mentally fresh before the start of the WTA championships. So that is an explanation why she won that tournament. If you compare Caroline to Kvitova. Na Li and Stosur you see a paradox. Caroline has recorded very, very stable results, while these three won a Grand Slam this year. Why? Kvitova has weapons, suitable for grass. And Na Li is already 29, routine is important for Grand Slam tennis. She had an new coach with new routines, which helped her. And Stosur had an advantage against Serena Williams during the US Open final because they met each other in San Diego a couple of weeks before. You could see Stosur thinking: ‘this will not happen again to me’ and she just grabbed the title.”
Groenveld thinks women’s tennis will look more like men’s game the coming years. “I expect a couple of players who will dominate women’s tennis around 2013. You can see there is currently a generation transition going on. Think of a group like Azarenka, Wozniacki, Kvitova and still maybe Sharapova who will lead this coming tennis generation. And don’t forget Ana Ivanovic. If she still shows commitment to the sport and gets her true confidence back, she will be dangerous for the next years. Keep in mind all these players are still under 25, so I expect this group will be dominant for the coming years. It will be difficult to pick one player who dominates women’s tennis. It is more a group like we see in the men’s game on the moment with Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray.”
Wozniacki hopes to succeed in her mission and took the step of hiring a new coach: Ricardo Sanchez. Groeneveld knows the Spaniard. “Of course he is a good coach, but in advance it is difficult to say if he is the right choice for Caroline. He has had experience with Jelena Jankovic, who was number one in the world. He also has done things with Colombian players like Alejandro Falla. We advised Caroline on this option in Istanbul and she took a decision of hiring Ricardo.” This step has some changes for Groenveld’s work with Wozniacki.“It does not have any influence on me or Adidas We have a good relationship with Caroline and her team and we will always be there for her when needed. We will start working again in Sydney, Melbourne, Indian Wells, Miami and so on. But indeed, we will a bit less involved with Caroline and taking a little step sideward, that is all. For me personally, it does not bother at all. I know Caroline pretty long.”
There has been written and said a lot about Caroline’s relationship with golf player Rory McIllroy. Maybe he can help Wozniacki in search of her Grand Slam goal in Melbourne. “He is a good guy. A very nice person with a positive attitude. I don’t know his schedule, but he has a positive influence on Caroline. You can see it gives her a positive vibe. I saw the same mood when she played an exhibition in Bratislava (Slovakia, red.) a couple weeks ago. She enjoyed that so much, smiling all around. I even text her: ‘Would be nice if you have that relaxation on court as well.’ But that is Caroline, very relaxed. That is why I once started her calling ‘Miss Sunshine’. She always shines. That is something we have missed a little bit the past period. I want to see her shine again.”