The former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki has announced that January’s Australian Open will be her final professional tournament, as she steps back from the match-court to prioritise family life.
Wozniacki, who topped the rankings for 71 weeks, married the former professional basketballer David Lee in June. She has also spent the last season playing under the shadow of rheumatoid arthritis, an incurable auto-immune condition, although she insisted on Friday that this was not a factor in her decision to retire.
Wozniacki made the announcement on her Instagram page. “I’ve accomplished everything I could ever dream of on the court,” she said. “There is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court … Starting a family … and helping raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis (project upcoming) are all passions of mine moving forward.”
Arguably Denmark’s greatest athlete, Wozniacki was only 20 when she first climbed to the No 1 spot. Her success was built on tenacity, athleticism and an appetite for hard work that meant she entered more than 20 tournaments for eight consecutive seasons.
But her critics – of whom there were surprisingly many – pointed at her relatively weak record in majors, as well as the fact that her most successful years (2010 and 2011) coincided with a period when the Williams sisters had cut back on their own tennis commitments.
For those who had always found Wozniacki to be one of the sport’s most personable champions, it was a pleasure to see her career bloom for a second time two years ago. She lifted the WTA Finals crown in Singapore in October 2017, and then followed up with the most symbolic title of her career – the 2018 Australian Open – where she outlasted Simona Halep for a 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 victory in brutally hot and humid conditions on Rod Laver Arena.
Only two women – Marion Bartoli and Flavia Pennetta – had required more attempts to win their first major than Wozniacki, who told reporters afterwards that “One of the most positive things about all of this [is that] I’m never going to get that question again.”
At the end of that season, however, Wozniacki revealed her diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Although she has always played down the disease’s impact on her training schedule, it is hard to believe that it hasn’t contributed to her slide from No 3 in the rankings a year ago to No 37 now.