SINGAPORE -- Caroline Wozniacki earned her "Sunshine" nickname for her wide smile and unflinching positivity. But even she had trouble staying positive when she found herself mired in a slump and at risk of slipping out of the top 20 earlier this year.
"I never really looked at the rankings, but I definitely totally stopped when I went down to 18," Wozniacki told reporters at the WTA Finals on Sunday. "I'm like, This is depressing. I don't want to be down here." Nine months since dipping to a six-year rankings low, Wozniacki is back in the WTA Finals after a mid-season turnaround. After starting the season 15-9 through the French Open, Wozniacki has gone 31-9 since, with a title at the Istanbul Cup and final appearances at the U.S. Open and the Tokyo Open.
Wozniacki finished as the year-end No. 1 for two years running in 2010 and 2011, but by the end of 2012 she had missed the cut for the WTA Finals, finishing the season at No. 10. She says the strain of being a top player -- both its perks and responsibilities -- took its toll. "When you're No. 1, at the top of the list, there is so much attention on you, so many other things you have to do for tournaments, for sponsors, all the time," Wozniacki said. "At the same time, it's a great place to be, but you also get less time to practice. There are so many other things that are just mandatory. Sometimes it just takes a toll on you, even though you love to do it. I think it's natural that you just can't maintain the same level for so long. I managed to do it for two years and that was great."
Wozniacki did well during her peak years to fend off any challengers to the top ranking, but she also learned she had to upgrade her game to as the the quality of the field improved. "When you're No. 1 you're a target," she said. "Everyone sees all your matches and knows exactly how to play you. You just need to keep getting better, because obviously everyone is talking about how to beat you."
Currently ranked No. 8, Wozniacki has been drawn into the White Group at this year's finals and will play Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska in round-robin play. Two of her biggest wins this year have come at the expense of Sharapova and Radwanska, while she hasn't played Kvitova all season.
Also on her mind is the New York City Marathon, which she will be running in two weeks. Wozniacki admits she began to panic about the commitment during the Asian swing. The longest distance she's run in her training so far as been a half-marathon, but she's relying on her pure determination to get her through the race. "You're supposed to do about 30K or a little bit more [in training]," she said. "I just said, 'You know what? I don't care. I'm going to get through this no matter what.' So there is really no point in killing myself before I actually have to run the marathon. I have Singapore that I want to do well in."