Doha: Teen-ager Caroline Wozniacki`s progress this year has been so meteoric it would be no great surprise if she strolled off into the desert with a USD1.5 million (900 million pound) jackpot as the WTA season reaches its finale Sunday.
The 19-year-old Dane with Polish parentage climbed to fourth in the world rankings on the eve of the Tour Championships in the oil-rich state of Qatar -- proof that as well as being a new calendar girl for the women`s Tour she can back it up on court.
After collecting titles in Ponte Vedre Beach, Eastbourne and New Haven, Wozniacki stunned New York, ousting new American darling Melanie Oudin on her way to the USD Open final where she was beaten by comeback mum Kim Clijsters.
The one cloud on the sky blue horizon for Wozniacki came in Luxembourg last week when she picked up a muscle injury in the second set of her match against local girl Anne Kremer and retired while leading 7-5 5-0 knowing that she would not be able to play in the next round.
A gesture of goodwill to her opponent ended up with her conduct being investigated by the WTA after some lucky gamblers overheard her on-court conversation with father and coach Piotr and made a killing from her decision to withdraw.
The incident, that overshadowed her arrival in Doha, is unlikely to be held against a player who has played an astonishing 87 matches on Tour this year but it did prove that life in the fast lane can have its unexpected pitfalls.
"I mean, I didn`t do anything wrong. I was injured," Wozniacki, who models her game on former Swiss great Martina Hingis, told reporters at the Khalifa Tennis Centre that is hosting the Tour Championships for the second year.
"There was no chance for me to finish. So I decided to stop. I don`t have anything to do with betting. I don`t do betting. I`m against it. So I don`t see any problems.”
"I went to the hospital the next day to get a scan and the doctor told me that I had a strain. Even one more point could meant I got a torn muscle.”
"It was good for the tournament also that they had a match the next day. Even if I would have won, there would have been no chance for me to play the next day."
Wozniacki, who will be trying to upset world number one Dinara Safina when they play their opening White Group match on Wednesday, would have been quite a loss to the eight-player season-ender had she suffered a serious injury last week.
Apart from the duel between Serena Williams and Safina to decide who ends the year as world number one, debut appearances in the showpiece event for Wozniacki and Belarus`s Victoria Azarenka, another new kid on the block, have provided much of the pre-tournament conversation.
"(Victoria) is a very good friend of mine. So it`s really nice to have her here in the Championships," Wozniacki said. "We`ve been doing good results, both of us, this year.”
"I think it`s just a great thing to be a part of this team of the eight best women tennis players in the world. I`m sure that this will help me like in the further tournaments. I`ll see after this tournament what I can bring out of it."