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Time on my side, says beaten Wozniacki

By Peter Rutherford

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Given the avalanche of criticism Caroline Wozniacki received for being world number one without winning a grand slam, the Dane could be forgiven if she never wanted her top ranking back.

But Wozniacki, who was dumped out of the Australian Open quarter-finals on Tuesday by Kim Clijsters and is now set to be dethroned at the top of the women's rankings, says it is just a matter of time before she reclaims her crown.

The Dane's reign as number one has been a constant source of debate over the last two years.

On Monday, she came under fire from 18-times grand slam winner Martina Navratilova, who told reporters that "nobody feels Wozniacki is a true number one."

Wozniacki insisted the top ranking was not a major concern after her 6-3 7-6 defeat by Clijsters on Rod Laver Arena.

"To be honest I don't really think about it," she said. "I have been there for a long time already, I finished number one two years in a row.

"We are just in January. At the end of the year you see who has played the best, most consistently all year round. I will get it back eventually, so I'm not worried."

Wozniacki won six titles last year and earned more than $4million in prize money but never got beyond the semi-finals at a grand slam.

Her only appearance in a final was at the 2009 U.S. Open, when she also lost to Clijsters.

NUMBER ONE ON MERIT

While Wozniacki takes the disappointments in her stride, she finds the reaction to her grand slam setbacks amusing, given her tender years.

"I start laughing every time because the media talks to me like I'm finishing my career and I only have one year left and time is running out," said the 21-year-old.

"The fact is I still have quite a few good years in front of me. I still have a number of Australians, and a number of U.S. Opens and Wimbledons and French Opens."

Wozniacki acknowledged she had room for improvement and could learn from multiple grand slam winners such as Clijsters and Serena Williams.

"Obviously it's never fun to lose, but you learn more from your losses than you do from your wins," she said.

"You can learn a lot from Kim and Serena, they have done a lot in their careers and they have played tennis at a high level.

"And Kim ... even though she had a break of two years she was still able to come back and play at a very high level. You can definitely learn something from them."

Clijsters, who also rose to top spot in the WTA rankings before she won a grand slam, sympathized with Wozniacki.

"People are in a way almost blaming her for it. I think that is something really absurd," said the Belgian.

"I think she's great for the game. She's great for our sport. She's a great player.

"I think it's all a matter of experience and improving ... trying to learn from losses and become better every slam. Then she will definitely get there."

Roger Federer held the men's number one ranking for a record 237 consecutive weeks and said Wozniacki had deserved to be at the top of the women's game.

"There is no free pass to world number one," he added.

"She wasn't there for just a week either. It's not all about the slams anyway. They're big tournaments but it's not only about that."

Wozniacki's exit leaves three women, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova, with the chance of taking the top ranking.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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