Simon Reed

Caroline Wozniacki’s problem isn’t Rory McIlroy, or stripping off to sell underwear

Simon Reed

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Caroline Wozniacki went out of a tournament early again in Miami, but she will bounce back.

I was surprised about her going out of the Australian Open to Svetlana Kuznetsova in January, but losing to Garbine Muguruza in Miami this week is no disgrace.

I think we are going to have to get used to that as she is a top-20 player waiting to happen: 19 years of age, with the world at her feet, Muguruza has been frightening a lot of players. I am surprised that she beat Wozniacki right now - but in a year's time I wouldn't be surprised.

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The problem with Wozniacki is that she will always be at the mercy of big hitters - and Muguruza hits the cover off the ball. Against such players, when they are playing really well there is nothing she can do.

When they aren't playing well she's got a chance to win and she'll beat players that hit the ball less hard because she is very, very good at running things down. But she will always be prone to losing against the most powerful players.

She has been in the media a great deal as a result of her relationship with golfing star Rory McIlroy, and modelling her underwear range among other things. Only she knows if that is affecting her performances, but I don't think it is.

I don't see having a relationship with another sports star as being a problem. I don't know Rory, and I don't know Caroline very well - I've met her once - but I think they are good people and good for each other.

Fame is a shocking thing to happen to someone. I've been around famous people all my life (not least my brother Oliver) and it is a bastardising process, an evil disease, when taken seriously. I don't think Rory or Caroline do that; they seem good for each other and I hope it lasts.

I don't think the exposure in social media is a problem either - but is she cutting corners to see Rory, I wonder? And is he, to see her? That would be the only downside for me, if the travelling to watch each other affected their training and practice. I don't think that is happening, but it's a possibility.

Do the distractions with Rory help? No. Are they a hindrance? Possibly - only she knows. But for me, the underlying problem is her lack of a big game, not Rory McIlroy.

She did deserve to be number one. She was never the best player in the world, she maybe wasn't even in the top two or three, but her results didn't lie. She got to the final of the US Open and did everything right in that run-up to becoming number one. I don't think her temperament is faulty, and she's playing as well now as she was then - but the difference is the big hitters are playing better.

I can see her climbing from her current position of ninth in the world to get back into the top six or seven, but I don't see her getting higher than that unless she changes her game. I thought she was going to get that sorted 18 months ago - she was playing more aggressive tennis - but she has reverted to where she was.

Six or seven is her true level.

As for the modelling, there's no harm in extending your profile away from the tennis court: Maria Sharapova has got these Sugarpova sweets and zillions of other things, and it hasn't affected her at all. She's got more fame than any other woman who has played tennis - Serena Williams has earned more money on court, but Sharapova puts every other player into a cocked hat as far as earnings are concerned - she's extraordinarily wealthy.

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The demands on her time are extreme, but we can be sure that she hasn't cut any corners at all in her practice and her schedule. These things fit around her tennis.

Wozniacki's dad coaches her. She's experimented with other coaches but her dad always has the final say. For me, it could be time for her to listen to someone else's point of view - but not a complete change.

Rafael Nadal is the only player I know who has been with his coach, his uncle, for so long at the very top. Roger Federer's changed coaches - not had a coach, at times - Andy Murray's frequently changed coaches and so have Sharapova, Li Na, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska... Novak Djokovic has been with his for a while, but the general rule still applies.

Wozniacki's father can still orchestrate her career, but in tennis terms she needs to listen to another voice. When it's the same voice in the background, you stop listening.

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