Football passion runs in Caroline Wozniacki’s genes. The tennis superstar’s father and brother both played the sport professionally, while she was spotted on Qatari courts in 2011 wearing a Steven Gerrard shirt and recently said she will visit California to watch the Liverpool icon represent LA Galaxy.
Having spent 67 weeks at No1 in the world and having finished 2010 and 2011 on top of the WTA rankings, as well winning 22 WTA tour titles since turning pro at the age of just 15, the Dane has established herself as a major force in women’s tennis. Talking exclusively to www.sc.qa in Doha, the city where her compatriot Michael Laudrup is currently in charge of Lekhwiya, the current world No5 explained the origins of her love for the beautiful game, highlighted the national teams she supports and expressed her desire to attend the FIFA World Cup™ – once she has retired.
Caroline, apart from being an outstanding tennis player, you are known to be football crazy. Does your passion for the game come from growing up in a football family?
Yes, for sure. Growing up there was always football on TV, my dad and brother were always watching games. So if I wanted to spend time with them, I had to watch football. My dad was a football player, my brother also, so it was in the family.
So what did you play more growing up: football or tennis?
Both, it was very equal. I was very energetic as a child, so my parents just made sure I was active. I was playing a lot of football, and I liked football more. But my dad thought it was a sport for guys, so he was always trying to get me in another direction.
You turned pro at the age of 15. Did you ever consider playing football instead of tennis professionally?
I just loved the game [of football]. I was so young that I just enjoyed it without any such ambition.
I was very energetic as a child, so my parents just made sure I was active. I was playing a lot of football, and I liked football more.
Will you be finding time in your busy summer tournament schedule to tune in to the Women’s World Cup in Canada when it begins this June?
Yes, I will be following it a bit. America has a great team as always, so they are my favourites to win.
You have come to play in Doha and Dubai again this year. What is your message to young and aspiring players in the Middle East region?
You just have to believe in yourself. There will always be people saying you are not good enough or that you don’t have what it takes, but love what you do and train hard. If you believe in yourself then good things happen.
You were world No1 for an incredible 67 weeks. What does it feel like to be on top of the world – do you think it is comparable to lifting the FIFA World Cup Trophy?
Yes. It was a dream of mine since I was a little girl. So to become No1 in the world was an unbelievable experience for me, and to stay there and finish No1 for two years in a row is something very few people have done. It is something I’m very proud of and something no-one can take away from me.
Would you like to attend a World Cup, perhaps even the tournament here in Qatar?
I’d love to go to a World Cup – I’ve never had the chance to do it. I didn’t go to South Africa or Brazil. I support Denmark whenever we’re in it. Qatar is a few years in the future, and by that time I probably won’t be playing tennis anymore, so I will have more time. So I’d like to come out here and watch it.
The Centre Court here at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha has some demountable parts to the upper stands. At Qatar 2022 there are plans to reduce demountable stadium seating after the tournament and send it to nations in need of sporting infrastructure…
I think it’s great. All the big stadiums here wouldn’t get much use, so it’s nice to ship them over to someone who needs them and who will really appreciate it.
Have you enjoyed coming back to Qatar over the years?
I’m always excited to be here. It’s a good tournament, it is always tough competition here because the best players in the world are here in Doha. It’s usually cool and windy in Qatar at this time of the year, a little cooler than Dubai. But it is equal conditions for everyone, and so it is about embracing it and making the most of it.
You’ve come close a couple of times to winning a Grand Slam title. What do you need to do to win a major?
I think I am just seven matches away from it, just like everyone else. We’re all on equal ground whenever we go into one. We all try to win it.
In Qatar a few years ago you warmed up on the Centre Court wearing a Steven Gerrard shirt. Have you managed to see any Liverpool games yet?
I’ve been to Anfield quite a few times. I love it. There is nothing that beats that atmosphere, and when they sing ‘You’ll never walk alone’, it gives me goosebumps every time. I have a few signed Gerrard shirts at home, but I’d gotten one here in Doha from a friend. They had just had a good win, so I thought, ‘You know what, I’ll just warm up in it’. And I thought it was fun and it definitely got a lot of attention.