Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Former World No.1 Wozniacki announces return to tour

Three years after retiring from tennis, 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday announced that she will make her return to tour this summer.

Former World No.1 Wozniacki — the first player from Denmark to win a major — retired in January 2020 after a third-round loss in Melbourne. A diagnosis of debilitating rheumatoid arthritis was a factor in her decision.

Wozniacki, a mother of two who turns 33 in a few weeks, and husband David Lee, a former NBA player, are parents to 2-year-old Olivia and 8-month-old James. Since last year, Wozniacki has served as an analyst as well.

Wozniacki plans to start playing in Montreal to regain her form. She and her team will then move to New York. After this, she has set aside two months to prepare for the Australian Open. She has left her plans open after that but notably mentioned the Paris Olympics as a key goal.

“Three years ago, having achieved almost everything I’d ever set out to do, I walked away from the professional tour. I wanted to start a family, and I needed a break. I had no idea how long that break would last,” Wozniacki wrote in Vogue.

“But then, one day late last year, I found myself setting up a couple of sessions on the court. And when my dad visited me in Florida, I realized I needed advice. I hit for 20, 30 minutes. At one point I looked at him and said, ‘I feel like I’m hitting it better than I ever have. Am I making that up?,” she added.

Wozniacki didn’t possess the size or power of some of her contemporaries, but she succeeded with precision shots, improbable angles and exquisite footwork. Bud Collins famously dubbed her “The Golden Retriever” for her defensive excellence. This combination was instrumental in her securing 30 titles, a record of 635-264 (.706) and more than $35 million in prize money.

Wozniacki first rose to the No.1 spot in October 2010, ending that year and the next as the top-ranked player — a feat no Scandinavian woman had previously accomplished. Her reign at the pinnacle, which spanned a total of 71 weeks, drew to a close in February 2018. She was a three-time major finalist, losing at the US Open in 2009 and 2014, to Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams, respectively.

Wozniacki’s breakthrough came in 2018 in Melbourne, when she defeated Simona Halep in the final. It is her only career Grand Slam title to date.

Wozniacki also won the 2017 WTA Finals in Singapore, clinching the title with a victory against Venus Williams in the final. Previously, she was a junior champion at Wimbledon in 2006 and was honored as the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2008.

“I didn’t hit a tennis ball until after James was born, more than two years after my last match,” Wozniacki wrote.

“It’s hard to say why, or what changed, but when my dad saw me practice that day, and said, ‘It looks like you’re enjoying it more.’ I was relaxed and having fun, and somehow that let me see everything more clearly,” she added.

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