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Sweet Caroline rolls back the years | Tennis News

It seemed like she had never been away. Caroline Wozniacki was always one of the brightest lights on tour and now, in a most unexpected way, she is lighting it up again.

Caroline Wozniacki reacts after a point won against Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova during the US Open(AFP)
Caroline Wozniacki reacts after a point won against Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova during the US Open(AFP)

In only her third tournament after her return, Wozniacki, who was away from professional tennis for 43 months, stole the spotlight on Day 3 of the US Open by knocking out 11th seed Petra Kvitova and reaching the third round.

It was after the 2020 Australian Open that Wozniacki stepped away from the sport and went on to give birth twice. The Dane was 29 years old at the time and a former world No.1, with one Grand Slam title (Aus Open 2018) to her name. But after years away from the court, she has wasted little time in showing she still has plenty left in the tank.

At the 2023 US Open, there were 10 mothers – Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina, Tatjana Maria, Taylor Townsend, Yanina Wickmayer, Vera Zvonareva, Barbora Strycova, Patricia Maria Tig and Margarita Betova – who entered the women’s singles main draw. Of these players, four lost in the first round while Wozniacki and Townsend were the ones who booked their spot in the third round by the end of Day 3.

Against Kvitova, a two-time Major winner, Wozniacki’s movement perhaps wasn’t the sharpest but her hustle and groundstrokes from the baseline, strengths that helped her reach the top of the rankings years ago, remained high class as she closed out a 7-5, 7-6 victory.

“Being out here on Arthur Ashe Stadium, night session, playing in front of a packed crowd, this couldn’t be better,” she said on-court after her win. “It’s a dream come true. If you’d asked me three years ago, I would have said I’ll never be back here playing on this court. But to be back and to beat the world No. 11 feels very, very special.”

In her first two comeback tournaments earlier this month, Wozniacki had lost in the second round of the Canadian Open to Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova and also went down in straight sets against world No.40 Varvara Gracheva in the Cincinnati opener.

It wasn’t ideal preparation for the US Open, a tournament where she’s reached the final twice (2009 and 2014), but the time on court helped set things in motion and she is yet to drop a set after the first two rounds in New York.

“I’ve been feeling very comfortable ever since I arrived here,” said Wozniacki in her press conference after beating Kvitova. “I’m just happy that I managed to stay calm and collected and closed out the match in straight sets.”

Reflecting on how she made the decision to come back, Wozniacki said she was encouraged by her father, who has been by her side from the start of her journey.

“My dad has been my coach throughout my career,” she said. “When I had floated the idea by him that I wanted to maybe come back, he didn’t really expect it but at the same time supported my decision. He knows I’m a very determined individual. Once I put my head to something, I go 100 percent. So, he was never in doubt that I would go all out for what I wanted.”

Wozniacki had turned pro back in 2005 and has seen plenty of ups and downs in her career. But it was there for all to see just how much the latest win meant to her and her family. She sat on her chair after the match, wiping away tears as her supporters rejoiced in the stands.

Up next for the Dane is Jennifer Brady, a player she has never faced before. And if she wins, she could face another American – Coco Gauff, who is one of the favourites to win the title – in the fourth round. The road is only going to get tougher but as Wozniacki said, she’s prepared to give it her all. And that makes her a dangerous opponent, no matter who is on the other side of the net.

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