MELBOURNE - Caroline Wozniacki sat atop the women's tennis rankings for two seasons but after her latest Grand Slam failure, it's hard to see how she can get back on her perch.
The girlfriend of Rory McIlroy had plenty to cheer last week when golf's world number one landed a mega-bucks deal with Nike, but there was less to celebrate on court at the Australian Open.
The blonde Dane, now ranked at 10th in the world, made it safely to the fourth round but she came unstuck on Monday against Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova, going down in three hard-fought sets.
Wozniacki was left to contemplate her worst Melbourne showing in three years, and with her sole Grand Slam final, at the 2009 US Open, now a fading memory, a first major title remains a remote prospect.
"There is still a long year in front of me. There are still a few things I can work on and, you know, it can be better," she said.
"But at the same time, there are so many things I think I did well at this tournament, as well."
Wozniacki was the centre of attention two years ago in Melbourne when she made up a story about being attacked by a kangaroo, and had to apologise afterwards.
She also hit back at accusations she was "boring" by sending up the repetitive questions she faces at press conferences.
But after being toppled from the top ranking by her defeat to Kim Clijsters at last year's Australian Open, the 22-year-old was a peripheral figure at the current edition.
In the women's draw, most attention has been focused on Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, the world numbers one, two and three, who are considered favourites for the title.
Wozniacki was among seven female competitors in Melbourne this year who have held the number one ranking, following a period of flux at the top of women's tennis.
After Monday's defeat, she reminded her fans that in tennis, the difference between winning and losing is often very small.
"I think when they watch the match today I think they could have seen that it was very close and could have gone both ways," she said.
"To understand completely how it is you have to play tennis yourself and have been in those situations. But, yeah. I don't know."
One man who may understand those small margins is McIlroy, whose season with his new sponsor got off to a poor start when he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
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