MELBOURNE – At some point, the good karma is going to come Aleksandra Wozniak’s way.
And when it does, she’ll have earned every bit of it.
As the 29-year-old Quebecer continues her quest to come back from shoulder surgery, her game was falling into place a little bit at the end of the 2016 season – until another blow.
Wozniak had major issues with an infected wisdom tooth in the middle of Tennis Canada’s women’s training camp in Florida in December. She had surgery to remove three of them down there, and then had to wait to get the worst offender removed back home in Montreal because there was so much swelling.
“Basically only played here after four days of practice. I couldn’t withdraw, because I got a wild card (under a federation trade between Tennis Canada and Tennis Australia). Under normal circumstances, I would. But you can’t say no to that,” a disheartened Wozniak told Open Court after the 6-4, 6-1 loss to French veteran Virginie Razzano.
“It really sucks. No training. No tennis at all. No fitness at all. Couldn’t do anything. I was on antibiotics, on a lot of medications,” she said. “It’s too bad because I was in a good sequence since this past summer. Playing tournaments.
“It’s not like I’m trying to make these things happen. When I do too much fitness, I get injured. When I don’t do enough, I’m fine, but something else happens. The story of my career …”
It was a sweet draw for Wozniak against Razzano, who turns 34 this year and who has all but disappeared from the top level of the game in recent years. In 2016, other than the Grand Slams and a few other tournaments, she barely left France.
Along with Wozniak’s extended absence after shoulder surgery, this was almost a match of, “Wow, is ____ still playing?” Razzano’s career-high ranking of No. 16 came in Sept. 2009; Wozniak, who is five years younger, reached her own career high of No. 21 in June of that year.
The surgery did a serious number on Wozniak’s serve, never the biggest weapon but at least a steady, reliable stroke. So it was already something she had to deal with in every match. But the shoulder reacted especially badly to the three weeks of idle time.
“I didn’t practice, so my shoulder got stiff. After the surgery you have to do stuff. I have no strength right now in the shoulder after over three weeks not training. I couldn’t do anything. I haven’t had three weeks off like that since the surgery,” Wozniak said.
The serving struggles predate this latest bit of bad luck, and Wozniak has tried to win matches with a slowish first serve and a slow, unreliable second serve. It has forced her second shot to be nearly perfect as she defends it, and that puts a lot of pressure on her game.
Thursday against Razzano, there were just too many unforced errors, and not nearly enough depth of shot.
With her ranking at No. 298 coming in, Wozniak made the call not to return to Canada and play Fed Cup the week of Feb. 6.
She will remain in Australia, where a number of Challenger-level tournaments have been added to the schedule after the Australian Open, train hard and try to get her 2017 season off to a good start despite the tough circumstances.
Wozniak is trying out a coach named Kevin O’Neill, who formerly worked with American Maria Sanchez, during a stretch where she will play as many tournaments Down Under as make sense. After the Australian Open comes a $60,000 tournament in Burnie and another in Launceston, followed by four or five tournaments at the $25,000 level.