By Erik Gudris | Monday, July 21, 2014
Both Bernard Tomic and Caroline Wozniacki won titles last week that may help give them a jump start to the second half of the season.
While many tennis pros and even tennis fans took last week off, some chose to get back out on the courts. We may be in a slow part of the year, but two players in particular may have just reiginited their careers with title runs.
Caroline Wozniacki earned her first title of the year by winning the Istanbul Cup. The irony of Wozniacki returning to the Turkish city hosting the inaugural event was palpable. Back in 2011, Wozniacki finished that year ranked No. 1 in the world while competing at the year-end WTA Championships held in Istanbul. A lot has happened to her since then, both on and off the court, including losing her top ranking and later tumbling out of the top 10.
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Yet last week in Istanbul, Wozniacki looked like the player she was when she was on top of the world. Her comprehensive victory in the final over Roberta Vinci, the slice-and-dice Italian veteran who troubled Wozniacki in the past, certainly will give the Dane more confidence heading into the summer hard court season. That it was Wozniacki's first title since splitting with ex-fiancé Rory McIlroy, who also won his first British Open golf major on the same day, compounded the irony but also the sweetness of her result.
Neither Wozniacki nor McIlroy were quite the same in their respective sports once their relationship began. Both suffered dips in results despite their blooming relationship. At one point, Wozniacki even floated the idea that once she married McIlroy, she might give up her career for motherhood. Now that it's over, each are back to their own separate yet winning ways again.
Still, Wozniacki has a lot of work to do. She's yet to earn a win over a top 10 player this year, something she will need to start doing if she want to get back inside that elite tier again. But after a turbulent few months of being in the media spotlight, Wozniacki is now enjoying the focus on her tennis instead of her personal life.
Another player who appears to have turned a corner after a breakup is Australia's Bernard Tomic.
In the ongoing roller coaster that is the 21-year-old Aussie's career, Tomic started off last week on yet another low-point. IMG, his long-time sports agency, dumped Tomic presumably due to his recent penchant of making more headlines for his off-court antics and family issues than his lackluster results. The week only got worse when, due to being ranked outside the top 100, Tomic failed to make the initial cut for direct entry into the upcoming US Open. In fact, Tomic needed a wildcard just to get into the ATP 250 event in Bogota.
Yet, despite all of that, Tomic appeared a changed man in Bogota last week and for the better. Often accused of appearing not to care in many of his recent matches, Tomic's demeanor was often the exact opposite. Looking engaged and hungry, Tomic battled past Victor Estrella Burgos in three tiebreak sets in his semifinal.
In the final, defending champion Ivo Karlovic forced Tomic into yet another final set tiebreak. Tomic pulled off the upset win and then collapsed on the court in celebration as if a great burden was lifted from him.
Will this second career title, on the heels of such earlier bad news, be the lightning bolt that inspires Tomic now to live up to his earlier potential? Tomic's win likely won't mend all the fences smashed to splinters by his recent missteps. But, like Wozniacki, with the spotlight now on his on-court results, Tomic may have finally realized that assuming he will be great doesn't actually mean he will be. Splitting up from those who contributed to those early assumptions, while forging his own identity, may yet allow Tomic to fully reap the rewards of his natural tennis ability.
Not that long ago this year, both Tomic and Wozniacki were written off by some as tennis "has-beens" despite still being in their early 20s. Now, after a slow week that most snoozed through, each find themselves with a title and perhaps better prospects heading into the second part of the season.