How Caroline Wozniacki returned to tennis

Tennis

After retiring from tennis more than three years ago, Caroline Wozniacki made her official return to the sport earlier this month and is slated to play her first major since the 2020 Australian Open at the upcoming US Open.

The 33-year-old announced she would be making a comeback in an essay in Vogue earlier this summer. Wozniacki, who welcomed two children with husband David Lee during her time away from competition, said she began hitting again after her son was born in October 2022 and realized how much she missed the sport.

“It’s hard to say why, or what changed, but when my dad [and coach, Piotr] saw me practice that day and said, ‘It looks like you’re enjoying it more,’ that was exactly how I felt — I was relaxed and having fun, and somehow that let me see everything more clearly,” Wozniacki said.

Wozniacki has spent 71 weeks at No. 1 during her career and won 30 WTA titles, including the 2018 Australian Open. She is a two-time finalist at the US Open, most recently in 2014. In her Vogue essay, Wozniacki said she believed she was still more than capable of achieving greatness on tour.

“Can I win the US Open? I think so,” she said. “Can I win the Australian Open? I think so. That’s why I’m doing this. And I guess we’ll see what happens.”

Wozniacki has since stated she also hopes to compete at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and team up with fellow Danish player Holger Rune in the mixed doubles event. How has her journey back gone so far? Here’s a timeline of her return:

June 29, 2023

Wozniacki shared with the world that she would be coming back and playing the Canadian Open and the US Open. Both tournaments confirmed she received wild cards for entry as she no longer was ranked. It was later revealed she would also be playing the Western & Southern Open, also as a wild card.

Aug. 8, 2023

Playing to a packed crowd on Center Court in Montreal, Wozniacki officially kicked off her comeback at the Canadian Open. With giant letters spelling out “Bon retour Caro” hanging from the upper bowl, Wozniacki walked onto the court as “Sweet Caroline” blared over the loudspeaker.

After a few early moments of rust — including asking the chair umpire for clarification on how long the on-court warmups lasted — Wozniacki quickly discovered her form and earned a 6-2, 6-2 win over qualifier Kimberly Birrell.

During her news conference after the match, Wozniacki admitted she had felt some nerves initially but eventually was more comfortable.

“It’s like riding a bike, basically,” she said.

Aug. 9, 2023

Wozniacki took the court the following day for her second-round match against 2023 Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, but this time she was not victorious. Wozniacki’s time in Montreal ended with a 6-2, 7-5 loss in 1 hour, 46 minutes. While disappointed by the defeat, Wozniacki said she took many positives from her time at the tournament.

“I think as a competitor you always want to win obviously, but at the end of the day if I look at this tournament, I’m proud of myself,” she said. “I’m happy that I got to play two matches. I’m happy that I kind of know where I stand, what I can do moving forward.

“I think it’s a great learning curve, and I’m happy that I know where I am, and I don’t feel like I’m that far away from where I want to be.”

Aug. 15, 2023

After initially being scheduled to open play at the Western & Southern Open against Elina Svitolina on Center Court the day before, Wozniacki was given a harsh reminder of how tough life on tour can be. After Svitolina withdrew with injury just hours before their scheduled match and was replaced by lucky loser Varvara Gracheva, the match was delayed and ultimately canceled for the day because of rain. Eventually, playing a day later than planned and on a different court than originally scheduled, Wozniacki struggled against her opponent and her strong backhand. Wozniacki was ultimately handed her second consecutive loss 6-4, 6-4.

Wozniacki couldn’t hide her disappointment after the match but said she was going to focus her energy on the US Open.

“I still have about 10 days to prepare for the US Open,” she told reporters. “There [are] quite a few things that I feel like I need to do better. I thought last week, I was pretty pleased about where I was. I think this week I don’t feel like my timing is exactly where I want it to be, so I’m just going to go back and work hard.”

Aug. 24, 2023

After Wozniacki spent the week in New York preparing for the tournament, including a practice session with world No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek, it was revealed she will be playing a yet-to-determined qualifier in the first round, and if she were to win that match, she could potentially face No. 11 seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round.

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