NEW YORK (Reuters) - A year older and a year wiser, 20-year-old Caroline Wozniacki served notice Monday she could go one step further at Flushing Meadows, which would bring the Dane a U.S. Open title for her first grand slam triumph.
Top-seeded Wozniacki, surprise runner-up to Kim Clijsters at last year's Open, defeated former champion Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-4 Monday to reach the quarter-finals, holding her nerve against the pressure brought by the power-hitting Russian.
Wozniacki benefited from 36 unforced errors from the 14th seed, including nine damaging double faults, but she took credit for drawing mistakes from the three-time slam winner.
"I was playing good tennis. I felt like I was playing well out there. I made her do those errors and I'm really happy to be through and that I won this match," Wozniacki said.
Wozniacki has followed her impressive 2009 season with an even better campaign this year.
She has won four tournaments in 2010, posted a 15-1 record since Wimbledon and before Monday's match had lost only three games total from her first three Open victories.
"I definitely think I've improved a lot, not only physically, but also I believe in myself more. I believe I can do it," she said. "Also I think I can mix up my game a little bit more than I could last year."
A U.S. Open victory would vault her past American Serena Williams, missing this championship because of a foot injury, and into the world number one ranking.
Wozniacki was all business on court, controlling points against Sharapova with her steady groundstrokes, striking 16 winners and just 10 unforced errors.
But the Dane can let her sunny personality show, too.
Early in the second set, she raced in to reach a Sharapova drop shot and hit an angled half-volley. Trying to put on the brakes in order to race back for a responding lob, Wozniacki's feet slid under her and she fell with a crash.
"Then I was, OK, I'm at the net. Then I see her lobbing me. OK, I have to go back. Then I fall on my butt," said Wozniacki, who, after the fall, laid on her back with a big smile as the crowd gave her a cheer.
"You know, I thought it was quite funny, too," said the Dane, who actually won the point when the lob sailed long.
After the match, when she gave a plug for the clothing line she wears, the Dane was asked by a reporter whether she gotten any reaction to the short tennis dress she wears that barely covers her yellow bicycle shorts.
"I think it's nice," she said. "I definitely am sure I'll get a lot of male fans now."
Editing by Steve Ginsburg