NEW YORK (AP) — Waiting and waiting to play her first match as the No. 1-seeded woman at a Grand Slam tournament, Caroline Wozniacki passed the time by watching Rafael Nadal play his opener, reading a magazine and jogging in the gym.
When she finally set foot on court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Wozniacki played like someone in a hurry.
Seeking her first major title, 2009 U.S. Open runner-up Wozniacki beat NCAA champion Chelsey Gullickson 6-1, 6-1 in the first round at Flushing Meadows.
Because of long matches earlier, this one began at 11:52 p.m. Tuesday night and ended at 12:53 a.m. Wednesday.
“Thank you for sticking around,” Wozniacki told what was left of the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd afterward, “even though I know it’s been a long night.”
The University of Georgia’s Gullickson, daughter of former major league pitcher Bill Gullickson, took the first two points of the match, smacking good service returns on both and hitting a cross-court forehand winner to go up love-30. The third point was typical of the patient, make-no-mistakes Wozniacki: It lasted 22 strokes and ended when Gullickson dumped a forehand in the net.
Still, Gullickson conjured up another forehand winner to earn a break point after a minute of play. Wozniacki erased that with an ace from her ever-improving serve and took the next two points, too, to hold serve and get headed toward a 3-0 start.
Gullickson, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was making her Grand Slam debut two days after her 20th birthday. She isn’t ranked and got into the tournament with a wild card.
“She’s hitting the ball really hard. She has a really great game,” said Wozniacki, who turned 20 in July. “I know it’s tough to be here for the first time … but I’m sure with experience, she’ll be back and play even stronger.”
Wozniacki has been on quite a run lately.
The victory over gave her wins in 15 of her last 16 matches. She’s won three of the four tournaments she entered before getting to New York, including a title at New Haven, Conn., on Saturday. All of those events were on hard courts, just like the U.S. Open.
And she does it without trying to hit too many high-risk shots, preferring to stay along the baseline and pick her spots carefully.
Against Gullickson, Wozniacki hit only six winners, five fewer than her opponent. But here’s the key to Wozniacki’s game: She made a grand total of seven unforced errors, while Gullickson made 30.
The only hitch all night for Wozniacki, really, was whiling away the time until her chance to play. A three-set victory by Jelena Jankovic began Tuesday’s schedule in the main stadium, followed by a five-set victory by Novak Djokovic, followed by a three-set victory for Maria Sharapova. The night session was supposed to begin at 7 p.m. but was delayed about 1 1/2 hours, so even though Nadal won in three sets, Wozniacki and Gullickson began close to midnight.
“The matches before me were so long. Nobody expected that,” Wozniacki said. “But a win is a win. It doesn’t matter what time I get on. As long as I win, I’m happy.”
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