Wozniacki: 'It's a dream come true'
Wozniacki: 'It's a dream come true'
For all the things that can be said about Caroline Wozniacki following her Australian Open triumph, it is one thing that can no longer be said that seemed to give her a special satisfaction.
The newly-minted Grand Slam champion, who will start a 68th week at the top of the WTA rankings on Monday, can no longer be referred to as a ‘slamless’ world No.1. As petty and nonsensical a charge as that may seem, it has dogged the Dane ever since she first assumed top spot as a 20-year-old in October 2010. Now, at last, she has strung together the seven straight victories at one of the four majors that denote unquestionable greatness in our sport. No asterisks, no mitigation. No taking that name off the trophy.
“Honestly, I think that's one of the most positive things about all of this,” admitted the 27-year-old, whose wide smile showed no signs of abating some two hours after the tears of joy streamed down her face after Simona Halep’s final backhand found the net. “I'm never going to get that question again. Now I'm just waiting for the question, ‘When are you going to win the second one?’
“I think being a new Grand Slam champion and world No.1 sounds pretty good. I'm very excited for that. It's a dream come true.”
She was asked if her 7-6(2) 3-6 6-4 victory over top seed Halep was any sweeter having experienced the bitter lows of two US Open final defeats in the past, or how it felt to have risen from No.74 in the world on her arrival at the 2016 US Open to these new heights, even how it compared to her experience at the New York Marathon. Each time she spoke with the certainty of someone who had never lost faith that this day would come, even if at times that faith had wavered.
“I think you always, at certain points, especially when you start having injuries and stuff, you start maybe doubting if you're ever going to be 100 per cent healthy for longer periods of time,” said Wozniacki, regularly glimpsing up at the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup that had not left her side since Billie Jean King presented it to her on Rod Laver Arena.
“Then you start losing to some players who you're not really thinking you should lose to. It's frustrating. But in practice, I was hitting it very well. I'm hoping eventually it's going to turn around. I made the semifinals of the  US Open. Since then I've been playing really consistent and really well.
“Being here tonight as a Grand Slam champion, Australian Open champion, it's very special. Daphne here is going home with me tonight. I'll be cuddling with her.”
And to think, like Angelique Kerber en route to her own maiden major here in 2016, she twice came within a point of the exit with the tournament in its infancy. Instead it was Jana Fett, who saw a 5-1 lead in the final set evaporate in their second-round encounter, who was left wondering what might have been. As Wozniacki said afterwards, she’s been playing with house money ever since. Now, she’s hit the jackpot.
“From being almost out of the tournament to sitting here with the Australian Open trophy, it's amazing. It's been quite a turnaround, something I'm very proud of,” she said. “At the same time, I think it really was a great momentum shift for me going further into the tournament after that.”
Wozniacki reiterated the mixed emotions she felt for the defeated Halep she expressed in the trophy ceremony; like her, the women’s top seed entered the match with two Grand Slam final defeats to her name.
“I obviously feel very sad for her, but at the same time, you know, I'm very happy for myself. I can only imagine. I didn't want to think too much about how it would feel to win before the match because that's like in case I don't, it's going to hurt even more. I was kind of trying to think of both scenarios and just really go in calm and just try and focus on this as a normal match, as anyone else.”
There can be only one winner, after all. On Saturday night it was Caroline Wozniacki – older, wiser, and more aggressive than in days gone by; still battling nerves, this time beating them. Her career was already the envy of all but a small band of players who will ever play this game – a legacy enhanced, not shaped, by her Australian Open triumph.
“At the end of the day, I think a lot of people would like to be in my position,” she said. “Nobody knows how much work, dedication you put into it.
“All I could tell myself was, ‘You know what, you've given it everything you have. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. If not, then at least you know you've given it everything you've got and you can be proud of any achievement. Obviously adding a Grand Slam to my CV is what caps it off and really, I think, shows my career as a whole.
“It's very special. Very few people can say they've been through all of this. It's all about just enjoying the moment. It doesn't come around very often.”