Caroline Wozniacki details 'excruciating pain' leading to arthritis diagnosis

Caroline Wozniacki couldn’t get out of bed the day after a three-hour match and her husband had to help her put her hair in a ponytail.

That’s what led Wozniacki, a former No. 1 world tennis player who retired this year, to find she had rheumatoid arthritis. The 30-year-old shared the story for the first time with People magazine.

Wozniacki couldn’t get out of bed after first Grand Slam

Wozniacki won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open early in 2018. She was ranked No. 2 in the world rankings 13 years into her career and at the age of 28.

That August she woke up one morning after a three-hour match in “excruciating pain” and couldn’t get out of bed, she told People. She told her husband, David Lee, she felt exhausted and was in pain.

“I felt like I’d been hit by a car and had mono at the same time,” she told People.

Lee, 37, carried Wozniacki out of bed, put her hair up in a ponytail and helped her on a plane from Montreal to Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open. She said she played one “dizzy” set and then withdrew. At the time she said it was a left knee injury.

In New York city a doctor confirmed an autoimmune disorder, she said, but it was only after she continued to press for answers about her health that she was diagnosed with RA.

“It was a big shock,” she said, via People. “I’ve never had anyone in my family with RA or an immune disease — I just couldn’t understand how a fit young person could have this disease.”

She said it was a surprise, but she realized she had been dealing with the symptoms for a long time.

Wozniacki continued playing without telling public

Carolina Wozniacki on the court.
Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki detailed how she was led to an arthritis diagnosis in 2018. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Wozniacki was assured she could “live a normal life,” she said, as long as she listened to her body and didn’t push it on bad days. She revamped her diet, added more sleep to the schedule, avoided stress and kept up with regular therapeutic massages, she said.

In October 2018, she won the China Open a month after the diagnosis.

“It’s probably one of my proudest moments,” she said. “Nobody other than my family knew about my RA, and I proved to myself that I can do anything.”

After being eliminated from the WTA Finals, she announced the diagnosis. She continued playing for all of 2019 and announced she would retire after the 2020 Australian Open, which she did. She said it was not because of her RA. Instead, she said she wants to focus on starting a family. Wozniacki also intends to raise awareness about the disease.

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