Believe it or not, there are other women playing at the U.S. Open besides Serena and Venus Williams.
Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki — both of whom once reached No. 1 in the world — were on display Tuesday and are hoping to kick-start their careers with deep runs in New York.
“It’s my only goal I have at the moment,” Ivanovic, a bubbly Serb seeded No. 13, said after crushing Anna Tatishvili of Georgia, 6-2, 6-0, in the first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. “I really want to get back to the top of the game. You know, I believe I have qualities to do so. Once you’re in the top, you don’t really feel satisfied with being, you know, in Top 15. You really want to aim and push yourself.”
Ivanovic and Wozniacki are two of the seven active women’s players who’ve held the No. 1 ranking. Six of them — including the Williams’ sisters — are in the U.S. Open draw. Maria Sharapova pulled out before the tournament with a shoulder injury.
Ivanovic was No. 1 for 12 weeks in 2008, when she won her only Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. She was the No. 1 seed at the Open that year.
But she struggled with confidence and consistency, and didn’t reach the quarterfinals of another major until last year’s U.S. Open.
After dropping as low as No. 65 in the world in July 2010, she is now No. 15 and, since Wimbledon, has surrounded herself with a new team in hopes of moving up still further.
“It’s Nemanja Kontic and Zlatko Novkovic, my fitness coach, my sparring partner and then Sven Groeneveld from Adidas is sort of overlooking and helping us a little bit,” Ivanovic said.
“It’s been really good. It’s been very refreshing. It’s the first time I have Serbian team with me, and it also makes me feel better because it’s someone that understands the mentality and can sort of understand you on a lot deeper level. Obviously communication is very important.”
Ivanovic is in the bottom half of the women’s draw, where she could face another former world No. 1, No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka, in the fourth round.
Unlike Ivanovic, Wozniacki reached No. 1 in the world without ever winning a major, although she did make the final here in 2009.
Wozniacki ascended to No. 1 during two stints from 2010-11 and again in 2011-12 when several of the top women were injured or off the tour.
Justine Henin had retired. Serena missed 11 months on the tour with a foot injury. Kim Clijsters focused on the majors. And Sharapova was still coming back from shoulder surgery.
Whether Wozniacki’s window to win a major has passed her by remains unclear.
With her boyfriend, golfer Rory McIlroy watching courtside, Wozniacki fended off Duan Ying-Ying, a tall, power-hitting Chinese, 6-2, 7-5, despite trailing 0-3 in the second set.
“She’s very tall,” Wozniacki said. “It’s not very often you see the Chinese girls being very tall. She was probably around a head taller than me or half a head taller than me and hitting very hard. Hitting hard from both sides.
“I felt like she can play some very good tennis. It was difficult for me out there, and I was happy to be able to run things down and finish the match.”
The No. 6 seed here, she appears to have a relatively good draw, and could potentially face Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals.
Asked if she has the confidence to make another final here, Wozniacki said, “I always believe in that, so I never lost the belief. There is still so many matches to go, so I just have to go one match at a time like always.”
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter @AdamZagoria for coverage throughout the U.S. Open.