Three things Caroline Wozniacki can learn from her boyfriend, the golfer Rory McIlroy, and three things he can learn from her.
Three things Caroline can learn from Rory:
How to say no. One suspects that the conscientious Caroline would play all 52 weeks of the year if she could, but for the sake of her sanity – not to mention her Grand Slam ambitions – she would do well to observe her beau’s technique for swerving lesser tournaments. McIlroy was patently never keen on competing at the Thailand Golf Championship, a meaningless end-of-season exhibition in Bangkok, and so contrived a last-minute doctor’s note claiming he had dengue fever. Thus were the couple able to spend a lovely December holiday together in Dubai. Oh, and where do you suppose they spent New Year’s Eve? Thailand.
How to win a Grand Slam. It has to be said, alas. The one gap in Wozniacki’s otherwise luminous résumé is a slam title, and the longer it persists, the more she risks being unfairly branded as the big girl for the small occasion. McIlroy, at 22, has already put paid to any such verdict upon his own career, shedding the ‘choker’ tag he gained after his final-round implosion at the Masters with a marvellous front-running display to win the US Open by eight shots. She could divine much inspiration from golf, given Luke Donald’s status as a world No 1 who would surely trade that distinction for a first major championship.
How not to cultivate an Irish accent. “Some people have told me I am picking up a bit of an Irish accent when I talk,” Wozniacki tweeted this week. “Uh oh not good!” She seems a touch geographically confused: McIlroy’s Belfast brogue is far removed from, say, the Dublin blarney of Padraig Harrington, his colleague representing the Republic. And it is as well that she acquires few of the lazy vowels of the Irish tongue. Her transatlantic way of pronunciation, combining a Copenhagen lilt with a fair Florida twang, is quite beguiling enough.
Three things Rory can learn from Caroline:
How to stay in the zone. To see ‘Wozza and Rozza’ together is to encounter the very definition of lovesick puppies. In Shanghai for McIlroy’s appearance at the tournament in November, the pair spent much of the week either holding hands in the clubhouse or idly sharing a sandwich on the practice range. She even accompanied him inside the ropes for the golf itself: a strange mingling of business and pleasure. McIlroy finished fourth in China, so one supposes he did not become too distracted, but it is difficult to imagine Wozniacki allowing him to infiltrate her professional bubble to quite the same extent. Unless, of course, he is planning to carry the bouquet on to Centre Court for her at the Wimbledon ladies’ final.
How to dominate the world rankings. In the first throes of infatuation, McIlroy gave a fascinating insight into one force that drew this power couple together: “We both want what each other has,” he explained. In other words, Wozniacki was desperate to join him in winning a major, while he openly coveted her status as world No 1. The secret to reach the summit in golf, he believed, lay in absorbing the day-to-day dedication required in tennis. “She has got a great work ethic,” he said of his girlfriend. “Being around the tennis circuit, you see how they put the work in. It’s a lot more physically demanding than it is in golf, so it’s amazing how they can get up each morning and keep doing the same thing.”
How to deal with critics. McIlroy threw a fit of pique during last season’s Irish Open when Jay Townsend, the American golf pundit, had the temerity to question his course management. “Shut up,” he replied on Twitter. “You’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!” He would have done well at such a moment to display Wozniacki’s Scandinavian calm in handling detractors. Not to mention her creativity. Rounding upon journalists who had labelled her as ‘boring’ at the Australian Open a year ago, she concocted a shaggy-dog and anything-but-tedious story about being attacked by a baby kangaroo. “It looked so cute, but once it started scratching me, I was a coward and ran away,” she said, with plenty of *faux* sincerity. Memo to McIlroy: the next time your abilities are impugned, just remember the phantom marsupial.
Oliver Brown is a sports feature writer for The Daily Telegraph.