Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Tennis Week Interview: Caroline Wozniacki

Striking style has been a key component of Caroline Wozniacki's singles success. Wozniacki, who warmed up for Wimbledon by winning her fifth career tournament title on the grass courts of Eastbourne last month, reached her sixth final of the season on Saturday, bowing to Spain's María José Martínez Sánchez, 7-5, 6-4.

When she hasn't been playing deep into singles draws, Wozniacki has been an active doubles presence, playing with partners including Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Shahar Peer, Francesca Schiavone and Sorana Cirstea.

Wozniacki will arrive in New York City next month celebrating her collaboration with a new, notable partner. The ninth-ranked Wozniacki will come clad in a distinctive designer style she will debut at next month's U.S. Open.

Wozniacki will represent the new fall/winter 2009 adidas by Stella McCartney tennis line at the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows. The top woman player in Denmark's history has been selected to become the exclusive new face of the tennis line and will be playing in apparel and footwear from the distinctive sport performance collection at all upcoming tournaments starting with the U.S. Open.

"For me it is essential to wear products that combine performance and style," Wozniacki said. "I need to have breathable apparel and footwear that is lightweight, stable and well cushioned. With the adidas by Stella McCartney tennis line I feel like I have everything any fashionable female tennis player always dreams about: cutting-edge adidas technologies combined with Stella’s unique designs that actually perform. I always play better when I feel good, that is very important to me so I’m really excited about getting out on court in it!"

Wozniacki, who succeeds Maria Kirilenko in wearing Stell McCartney's tennis apparel, will give the brand top-10 prominence and greater visibility on the game's most prestigious courts.

"It’s very rare for a fashion designer to dress one of the top 10 players in the world," McCartney said in a statement. "I couldn't be more thrilled and happy to be given that opportunity. Let’s hope this will enhance her performance!"

It marks one of the most potent pairings of designer and athlete since noted fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg designed a line of Reebok tennis' dresses for Venus to wear at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

The tennis court has long served as a sports style runway for new trends in fashion. Famed tennis dress designer Ted Tingling, affectionately nicknamed "the leaning tower of pizzazz" by Hall of Fame writer Bud Collins, caused a Wimbledon scandal when he outfitted Gertrude "Gorgeous Gussy" Moran with lace panties. Tingling distinctive dresses for a series of champions including Maureen Connolly, Billie Jean King, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong.

In 1985, American Anne White created a stir by wearing an all-white skin-tight body suit at Wimbledon. Andre Agassi earned international attention when he took the court clad in blue denim shorts and more recently Anna Kournikova's midriff-baring belly shirts, Serena Williams' black spandex cat suit, Tommy Haas' sleeveless Nike t-shirt, Rafael Nadal's sleeveless t-shirts and capri shorts became his signature look and Roger Federer has worn both classic tennis sweaters and trench coats onto Centre Court at Wimbledon.

In creating a design for Wozniacki, McCartney, daughter of Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, drew on form and function to create a unique look.

"Comfort is the most important thing for me, on and off the court," Wozniacki told Tennis Week. "Of course I want to look good, but it's really important to wear products that look stylish and can actually perform. I need to have breathable apparel and footwear that is comfortable, supportive and well cushioned to be able to perform at my very best."

She celebrated her 19th birthday on Saturday and has become a player for all surfaces.

The rapidly-rising Wozniacki has won titles on three different surfaces: Eastbourne (grass) and Ponte Vedra Beach (clay) earlier this year and Stockholm, New Haven and Tokyo on hard court last season. The 2006 Wimbledon junior champion has advanced to the finals of four of her last eight tournament appearances.

"She's a young player and she's quite solid," former World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic said of Wozniacki. "She goes out there and really goes for her shots. Really, she runs well. She doesn't give you many points free, so everything that you have to do, you have to earn it. It's tough to play against players like that. So she's improving every time and getting better and better, and her results are showing."

Wozniacki started the 2008 season ranked No. 64 and surged up the rankings, becoming the first Danish player ever to capture a Tour singles title when she beat Vera Dushevina to win Stockholm in July of 2008. She topped Anna Chakvetadze to take the New Haven title in August then beat Kaia Kanepi to win Tokyo in October as part of a late-summer tear that saw her win 27 of her last 37 matches.

The only other Dane ever to capture a Tour title of any kind was Tine Scheuer-Larsen, who earned seven Tour doubles titles in the 1980s and 1990s, partnering the likes of former greats Mercedes Paz and Jana Novotna. She is the only Danish woman ranked in the top 300 and Wozniacki believes carrying the tennis flag for her nation is a source of pride rather than an added pressure.

"Tennis is a individual sport it's a lot about you and it's about how disciplined you are and who you surround yourself with so I don't think it matters what country you're from," Wozniacki said. "Of course there's more attention on me because I'm the only one in Denmark that high. If I was Russian I'd be just one of many. Definitely I think it's a positive thing that I'm the only one — there's more attention on me and it feels good to try to be a role model for younger kids. But of course I know people are expecting me to win, but I think that's a positive thing because people realize I can play good tennis."

A personable player who smiles on court and often punctuates her answers in interviews with a laugh, the 5-foot-10 Wozniacki exudes a positive personality on court, covers the court quickly, hits well on the run, and has been working to add some sting to her serve. Wozniacki has all the elements of star power in a sport which has seen several top women pull the plug on their careers or succumb to injury in recent years and her pact to wear McCartney's designs solidifies her status as both a player with great promise and sports marketer's dream.

Since 2007 Wozniacki has been part of the adidas Player Development Program, a service that helps nurture young tennis talent through a unique mix of advice and support, giving an extra helping hand towards building a successful career. Together with the player’s own coaching team, the adidas Player Development Program strives to complement with additional training services, advice and motivation. Fernando Verdasco, Sania Mirza, Grigor Dimitrov, Laura Robson, Raluca Olaru and Sorana Cirstea are some of the players currently participating in the program, which does not replace their own personal trainers but instead gives them an extra helping hand to build a career. Over 30 additional players including Ana Ivanovic and Dinara Safina, have used this free service at various stages in the past three years.

The fall/winter 09 adidas by Stella McCartney tennis collection hits retail in August 2009, including high-end department stores — including Lane Crawford, Isetan, Harrods, Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom — as well as www.shopadidas.com, adidas Sport Performance stores and selected sports retailers around the world. Prices range from $175 for the Skynde shoe, $130.00 for the Performance Dress and $175.00 for the Tennis Image Jacket.

Tennis Week caught up with Wozniacki to discuss her new deal and her views on fashion and tennis.

Tennis Week: Caroline, when adidas initially approached you to wear the Stella McCartney collection how did you feel about it?

Caroline Wozniacki: I have been playing in adidas kit for a while now and when I heard that I would be playing in the adidas by Stella McCartney line I was of course super excited! I had seen the clothes before and always thought they were beautiful. Tennis is such a traditional sport and for years the players have been wearing the same type of clothes at the tournaments. But now it has changed slightly and it is nice to be wearing something different to all the other players.

Tennis Week: Have you seen the Stella clothes Maria Kirilenko has worn and how did you like them?

Caroline Wozniacki: Sure I have seen them! I love the clothes adidas and Stella design. I think I speak for all the girls on tour when I say the adidas by Stella McCartney line is by far the best fashion statement in tennis. It's not traditional, yet it is still very comfortable, it is made for performance and so stylish!

Tennis Week: What are you personal fashion preferences when it comes to on-court and off-court clothes?

Caroline Wozniacki: Comfort is the most important thing for me, on and off the court. Of course I want to look good, but it's really important to wear products that look stylish and can actually perform. I need to have breathable apparel and footwear that is comfortable, supportive and well cushioned to be able to perform at my very best.

Tennis Week: What are you most looking forward to about wearing clothes from the Stella collection? Is there one particular piece that you are especially drawn to?

Caroline Wozniacki: I am really excited about my outfit that I will wear for the first time at the US Open. I do not want to give much away so you will have to come to my first match and check it out for yourself.

Tennis Week: When you were growing up watching tennis, whose fashion sense or style did you admire?

Caroline Wozniacki: I think adidas has done a great job with all the other players for example with Ana Ivanovic. I have seen the dresses she is wearing on court and feel they are so classic and fully suit her. I have for the past couple years really admired what she has worn and I am proud now that I can be part of the adidas by Stella McCartney tennis family.

Tennis Week: When it comes to tennis clothes what is the most important aspect for you? Fit, comfort, color, material?

Caroline Wozniacki: The most important aspect for tennis clothes is the fit and comfort. The fashion element comes next, everybody wants to look good but for me as an athlete it is crucial that I am able to perform on court. If you can find clothing like the adidas by Stella McCartney line that is both fashionable yet also made for performance then you have managed to get best of both sides: performance and style.

Tennis Week: Do you have any interest in modeling as Maria, Daniela and Anna Kournikova have done in the past?

Caroline Wozniacki: To be honest I am fully focusing on my tennis career right now. This year has been successful so far and I am training hard every day. My goal is to stay in the top ten and win some more titles by the end of the year.

1 comment:

  1. Cant wait to see her wearing Stella's :)
    this was a great interview, she's adorable :D