It’s Time For Caroline Wozniacki to Say “No Papa” on Court.

“Pressure is a privilege.” – Billie Jean King.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Shakespeare. Henry The IV, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 1, 26-31.

“I’m not a girl. Not yet a woman.” – Britney Spears.

Something bugged me all last week as I watched the WTA Championships in Doha. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until the third set of the final between Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki, a final Clijsters won on her own terms after suffering a letdown in the second set. Although I give Wozniacki credit for making it a competitive match, the sight of Wozniacki, wearing an icebag on her head while her father Piotr Wozniacki lectured her in Polish on how to best handle “Mama Clijsters” made everything very clear to me.

Wozniacki has to stop her father from coaching her on court.

Although the rules allowed on-court coaching for all players during the season ending event in Doha, Wozniacki, being the No. 1 player in the WTA, made use of the tactic more frequently than anyone else. And that’s what rubbed me the wrong way. After all, if the supposed best women’s player on the tour uses on-court coaching more than her fellow players, especially those in the top 10, what does that say about the ranking system or the tour itself? Although I’m not against players using the rules to their advantage, Wozniacki, because of her new elevated status, has to start playing the game on her terms. Not only to solidify her position as the tour’s best player but also in the best interests of the WTA.

Wozniacki’s status as the sport’s next global superstar is assured. She’s attractive (yes, I know I’ll get flak for that but it helps), extremely personable, speaks three languages maybe more and she’s earned a devoted fan base throughout the world. But of all the top players on tour, 2010 repeatedly saw “Papa Woz” run out on court during a tricky part of a match and start off with a beseeching cry of “Karolina, Karolina, Karolina” before launching into a rapid fire one-way coaching session while his daughter often avoided eye-contact the whole time. At least during her match against Clijsters in Doha, Wozniacki briefly interrupted her father with her own two cents (or Zloty) before he continued on with his fatherly advice.

Did Piotr Wozniacki’s on-court advice help his daughter at all in her final against Clijsters? Possibly. But the fact that she lost anyway speaks more to the rising call for on-court coaching to be banned from WTA matches as many view the tactic as nothing more than a glorified pep talk. Sure a coach will sometimes give helpful advice like “hit to the backhand more”, but shouldn’t a player know this before walking on the court? The fact that on-court coaching isn’t allowed in Grand Slams and that Wozniacki’s Slam results, aside from the U.S. Open final in 2009, have been hit or miss in the last few years only provide fodder for those who say Wozniacki, despite her tremendous skills, relies too heavily on her father and isn’t capable of dealing with big moments on her own. I don’t believe that to be true at all but if Wozniacki is to face down the criticism that she’s not a legit No. 1 or even a legit contender for a Grand Slam next year, she has to start showing that she is an independent thinker no matter if she plays on Centre Court or the first round of a small event.

Maybe Wozniacki as she grows older will find that she doesn’t need her father’s input so much or perhaps the WTA will stop on-court coaching altogether and make the decision for her. But as Wozniacki now says she enjoys being the “player to beat”, she and her coaching staff know she’ll face more scrutiny and more pressure to live up to her billing as the “best female player on the planet”. I know that title is open to debate, but if Wozniacki wants to be a part of that debate on her terms, maybe she should download this now classic tune from “Mama Spears” back in her teen sensation heyday and listen to these lines.

“There is no need to protect me
Its time that I learn to face up to this on my own
I’ve seen so much more than u know now
So don’t tell me to shut my eyes”

Nothing like a cheesy pop song to put everything into perspective.

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7 Comments

Filed under WTA

7 responses to “It’s Time For Caroline Wozniacki to Say “No Papa” on Court.

  1. Jon

    Great quotes to kickstart this! That’s quite the “crown” Woz is sporting above.

    “After all, if the supposed best women’s player on the tour uses on-court coaching more than her fellow players, especially those in the top 10, what does that say about the ranking system or the tour itself?”

    “But the fact that she lost anyway speaks more to the rising call for on-court coaching to be banned from WTA matches as many view the tactic as nothing more than a glorified pep talk.”

    Well said x 2. If Woz is the “player to beat,” well, it happened twice in the season-ending champs. And it was nearly two wipeouts. One has to think the bull’s-eye won’t be on her back too long. She’ll be in the rearview mirror for 3-4 players soon enough. When all are healthy and “on,” she’s maybe the 6th-best WTA player in reality.

  2. Jon

    Another possible song for Woz to her father, at least the title: “Papa Don’t Preach.”

    • tennisfool

      I wanted to use that song as part of the headline, but thought it’s lyrics weren’t quite appropriate for “Sunshine”.

  3. isa

    good analysis
    i was watching the match with my 12-year old boy (plays also tennis in competition –> at another level but at least he has an idea about the mechanism of a tennis match)
    at a certain point in the match papa wozniacki shouted ‘concentratia concentratia caroline, concentratia’
    my son said to me :’ mama, does he know his daughter is an adult ? She knows it probably better than he. If kim sees this she will laugh and she will be convinced she can beat the toddler’

    he has a point my son 🙂

  4. What you really need to complain about is the coaching that isn’t allowed: off court coaching. I have never seen this rule enforced, but I think fines are in order. Henin is one of the worst offenders. If she doesn’t know what to do on court, she shouldn’t be playing. Many other players are guilty of off court coaching. Coaches shouldn’t even be permitted in the stands, but should watch from some other location. For sure, not courtside. The men do it, too.
    Enough already.

    • tennisfool

      I agree that off-court coaching is a big problem, but good luck stopping that as so many players, men and women, get away with it.

  5. Van

    Love the video addition!

    But that aside, great points made here. I don’t want to say it’s reliance, but making that much use of it can only hurt her come Slam time. I’m anxious to see how she goes about the new year.