French Open 2013: Caroline can make her new found freedom count

28May 2013

Roland Garros

 

Serena Williams is red-hot favourite for the French Open title. Ralph Ellis, who tipped Maria Sharapova before the start of last year's tournament, thinks he's found a  long priced alternative.

 

There have been a good few "tennis dads from hell" down the years - men who nurtured their daughters' careers to the point of obsession and sometimes beyond.

 

It's before even my time, but apparently the phenomenon goes back to Suzanne Lenglen, who won six titles at Wimbledon and Paris between the wars, and was driven by her  father Charles. In the modern age Steffi Graf's dad Peter was possibly the first, but definitely not the last. I can remember chasing Stefano Capriati down the stairs  outside the Centre Court at Wimbledon to hear his views on Jennifer's crumbling career; Jim Pierce was ultimately a destructive influence on Mary; and as for Damir  Dokic, the wild eyed father of Jelena, the least said the better.

 

At some point, however, all of the girls have tried to break the stranglehold of a domineering dad. For some it starts a row that effectively kills their careers; but  for others the burst into independence brings huge benefits. Steffi won 14 of her 22 Grand Slam titles after she'd taken control of her career away from her father.

 

All of this leads to Caroline Wozniacki in the week that it's been revealed that her dad Piotr is ending his role as coach to the former world number one. He's decided  he can no longer handle the lifestyle of hotels, planes and tennis courts. He'll help appoint a coach and from there she's on her own (with a little help from Rory  McIlroy).

 

Wozniacki did hire Ricardo Sanchez briefly during 2012 - a spell that ended with the Spaniard complaining that Piotr didn't let him do his job. But you sense this time  it could be different because Caroline herself will be 23 in July and clearly wants more freedom, perhaps encouraged by what she's seen of her golfing superstar  boyfriend's lifestyle.

 

"We know what we want," she said yesterday. "We know we can improve all the time, and it is important to find someone who is really good and can push you on the court,  but also lets you live your life off the court." It's a big decision for a young girl, but maybe it is already helping. Her display to wipe away the challenge of  Britain's Laura Robson in the first round of the French Open was hugely impressive, with a clear game plan and ruthless execution.

 

Serena Williams is 1.75 favourite to win the tournament, but at the risk of sounding like the Betfair Contrarian that is far too short a price. She has been  in great form, but there's a reason why she's only won the French title once, and that was back in 2002. The clay blunts the strength of her power serve, she doesn't  move as easily on it as on any other surface, and that long wait for a second triumph has created mental demons.

 

There is, of course, no obvious form for Wozniacki to be the girl who brings her down. She's 110.0 to win the title for the very good reason that she came  into Paris on the back of four first round exits on clay. But we know there's a top performer in there somewhere waiting to get out, and if anybody from the top  quarter of the draw has the pedigree to take on Serena then it's a girl who spent 67 weeks leading the rankings. That will be all the more so if she's suddenly found  the freedom to go out and play without worrying about what her dad is telling her.

 

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Keywords: French Open, Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams, French Open

Source: Betfair

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