Life has been pretty good for Caroline Wozniacki, and Wozniacki has been pretty good for life. Is there a player out there who exudes a comparable "just glad to be here aura"? Take in a good dose of Wozniacki and you might find yourself walking back to your car humming, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." The girl is a regular human smiley-face icon.
Don't you sometimes just want to grab Wozniacki by the shoulders, give her a shake, and scream: "Caroline! Aren't you supposed to be suffering and whining, talking about the brutal length of the season and calling for a pox on the house of Williams as you make a run for the world No. 1 ranking?"
Her short answer probably would be "No."
Actually, her long answer probably would be "No" as well.
Nobody ever accused Wozniacki of deep thinking, despite her declaration that she'd like to attend Yale University some day. The remarks Wozniacki made on the hunt for the top ranking, after she advanced to the semis of the Pan Pacific Open, were about as deep as she likes to go:
"If I reach No. 1, that is great. It's always been a goal of mine, but if it doesn't happen this year there will be other chances."
Shades of Stefan Edberg, who, after losing a tight, bitterly fought battle in the semis or quarters at Wimbledon one year, shrugged and remarked, "Well, we're still in the doubles."
Let's face it, the hunt for major titles and the No. 1 ranking aren't what they used to be, partly because the two efforts are no longer as closely related as they once were -- especially on the WTA side, where Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic recently held the No. 1 ranking without having won a major event. The "even a blind pig finds an acorn sometimes" approach seems to have become something of the norm, which is partly why a nice girl like Wozniacki can be so cavalier about her pending ascent to the top spot.
Chances are pretty good that due to the continuing absence of Serena Williams, the seeming indifference of global motherhood ambassador Kim Clijsters, and the inability of the other usual suspects to string together a passable string of W's, Wozniacki may even wind up with the year-end No. 1 ranking. In roughly a week, she could take the top spot for the first time, if she wins Tokyo and makes the quarterfinals in Beijing.
Serena is still out with an injured foot and won't be playing in Beijing. She has 1,500 points to defend at the WTA championships (having won it all last year); even if she returns to play at Doha, she'll have to win the event just to keep from losing points, while Wozniacki, a quarterfinal loser in Doha last year, will defend a mere 230 points at those WTA Tour Championships.
If Wozniacki borrows the No. 1 ranking, as Dinara Safina did a while back, it wouldn't be such a bad thing. But if she finishes No. 1 in a year when she won no major and Serena Williams won two -- that would be an unfortunate if inarguable development. The ranking is earned. I just wish it were not so easily earned by bagging points while playing a glut of tournaments.
Maybe that No. 1 ranking isn't all it's cracked up to be, which is a theme that Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Rafa Nadal and others have hammered away at for years. It's often taken as a disingenuous position, reflecting a desire to ward off pressure. But at times like these, I'm more inclined to take seriously the claim of those players, that they have only one goal -- to win major tournaments.
It follows that being ranked No. 1 is actually the second prize in tennis. Looked at that way, second prize is about to be awarded to a truly deserving candidate on the WTA side.