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Wozniacki issues timely reminder to young guns

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark hits a return to Laura Robson of Britain during their women's singles match at the French Open tennis tourname
Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark hits a return to Laura Robson of Britain during their women's singles match at the French Open tennis tourname

By Martyn Herman

PARIS (Reuters) - Apart from winning a grand slam title Caroline Wozniacki has been there, done it and bought the T-shirt - and she's still only 22.

The Dane, who not long ago was world number one and the face of the WTA Tour, has not exactly disappeared off the map since but her name is rarely mentioned these days when the likely grand slam title contenders are being discussed.

In fact, in the past year her relationship with Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy has become of more interest than her tennis.

On Monday, however, Wozniacki showed against British teenager Laura Robson that she is far from a busted flush.

Robson, like Wozniacki as a teenager, is being talked up as a player capable of winning the sport's biggest prizes but was put firmly in her place during a 6-3 6-2 defeat in the first round of the French Open.

Wozniacki had lost in the first round of her four most recent tournaments coming into Roland Garros, but had far too much experience for the 19-year-old.

The Dane, seeded 10th in Paris, played down talk of a "confidence crisis" and even offered a little sympathy for Robson who despite rising to 37 in the world is still prone to error-strewn displays like she produced on Suzanne Lenglen.

"To be honest, no, my confidence has always been good," Wozniacki who finished 2010 and 2011 at the top of the rankings despite never winning a major, told reporters.

"You know, she's only 19. She's so young. I know I'm only 22, but you know, it's still three years older. It means a lot."

While her critics suggest Wozniacki's grand slam dream is fading fast, she is far from downhearted and believes instead that her best years are in front of her.

Gone are the days, she believes, when precocious teenagers like Monica Seles, Martina Hingis and Maria Sharapova were getting their hands on the game's treasures.

"I think you see older and older players now doing very well. Back in the day, like 15 years ago you would see 15‑year‑old girls basically, or women ‑ I don't know what to call them ‑ winning grand slams," she said.

"Now it's just not happening anymore. It's mid 20s, it's late 20s, early 30s now. You see a broad variety of players.

"I think when you're older you get to know your game, you get to know yourself as a person," Wozniacki added.

Wozniacki, who is still coached by her former professional soccer player father Piotr assisted by Sven Groenfeld, faces another 'youngster' in the second round in the shape of Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski who she lost to in Rome.

"I definitely know how she plays, trying to hit every ball and play fast," she said. "I've definitely learned something from the last match, so hopefully this time will be better."

Despite winning 20 career titles, fourth on the list of active players, the learning process, it seems, is still ongoing and those who have written her off should take note.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman)

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