"It's a new year and I've gotten older ... and hopefully a little wiser."
That from Caroline Wozniacki, who after five losses in seven matches to Maria Sharapova reversed that trend and pulled off an impressive 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 upset of the No. 5-seeded Russian on Sunday, earning a spot in the US Open quarterfinals for the first time since her semifinal run of 2011. The 2009 US Open finalist booked a spot among the Elite Eight for the third time, and will next face Italy’s Sara Errani.
As she told the fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium, she's had her ups and downs this year, both on the court and off. Whether or not the adversity has made her a wiser player is something only she knows, but the Danish delight has certainly become a more complete player in recent months. After an impresive hard-court run-up this summer, which included the Istanbul title, a semifinal showing in Cincinnati, and a quarterfinal finish in Montreal, she arrived in New York in trophy-contending condition. Always known for her skills as a retreiver/defender, the player nicknamed by some as "Sunshine" has added some brilliant new elements to her game, and is more willing to charge the net than she used to be. Though 11 net rushes against Sharapova is far from an overwhelming stat, she won eight of those points and, more importantly, showed that she's willing to venture from the baseline in order to shorten a point.
This highly anticipated matchup of two former No. 1s was a physical test for both players in the soaring humidity of Day 7. Wozniacki, who’s been training for November’s New York City Marathon, needed all her leg strength and mental toughness against Sharapova, a player who's made a habit of winning three-set matches (she's a tour-best 17-6 in those situations this year). But it was Wozniacki who would go the distance this time around, breaking her opponent to close out the match in two hours, 37 minutes. Sharapova’s trademark brand of high-risk, high-reward tennis resulted in 39 winners to 43 unforced errors. Wozniacki, meanwhile, finished with 22 winners and 17 unforced errors.