Caroline Wozniacki has spent 67 weeks at world No.1.
When she returns to the summit on Monday, week No.68 will be the sweetest of all.
That’s because for the first time, Wozniacki will reside at the top of the WTA tree in possession of a Grand Slam title. Winning the Australian Open – her first trophy in 43 appearances in the main draw at a major tournament – ensured she would return to world No.1 for the first time in exactly six years.
That’s the longest gap between reigns at the top in the history of the WTA rankings, dating back to 1975. She’d first reached the summit back in 2010, when she was just 20 years old, and finished that season and 2011 as the year-end No.1.
Chatting with Australian broadcaster Channel 7 after the win, she described the moment, in which she collected a major title and the top ranking in one glorious swoop, as “surreal”.
“It was a dream come true to rise to world No.1 in 2010, but, to do so again after so many years really makes me proud,” said Wozniacki. “To become No.1 again after winning my first-ever Grand Slam here in Melbourne is one of the happiest and proudest moments of my career.”
It caps an incredible 12 months; since the beginning of 2017 she has won 71 matches, reached 10 finals and also won the WTA Finals in October for what was, until Saturday night, the biggest title of her career.
Back in 2012, when she last held the top ranking, her relationship with the position was somewhat different. She’d just been overwhelmed in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open by Kim Clijsters, a player ranked lower, but one who possessed the weapons and the aggressive mentality considered essential for Grand Slam success.
Wozniacki at that time had reached a solitary major final – she would go on to reach a second in New York in 2014 – and was frequently criticised for her inability to raise her game at the sport’s four biggest events.
According to journalist Tom Perrotta, it cast doubt over her ability to claim she was the world’s best player.
“Wozniacki couldn't do the one thing that everyone expects a No. 1 to do: win a major singles title,” he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, echoing the sentiments of many. “Her lacklustre results on the grandest of stages attracted abuse from all over the world, and even spurred calls to re-evaluate the ranking system.”
Until she defeated Simona Halep on Saturday night for an incredible victory at Melbourne Park, she’d not once defeated a player ranked in the top five at a Grand Slam tournament.
Wozniacki, to her credit, wasn’t too concerned with the negative comments.
"I start laughing every time because the media talks to me like I'm finishing my career," she said at the time. "I will get (the No.1 ranking) back eventually, so I'm not worried."
Truer words have rarely been spoken.
At her champion’s press conference after Saturday night’s glorious final against Halep, the loaded topic of “slamless No.1s” was raised.
Was it a relief that this label no longer applied to her?
“Honestly, I think that's one of the most positive things about all of this. I'm never going to get that question again,” she laughed.
“I'm just waiting for the question, ‘When are you going to win the second one?’ Right now I'm just happy I have this one, and I'm going to really enjoy this moment.
“I think being new Grand Slam champion and world No. 1 sounds pretty good.”