Wozniacki departing with 'no regrets at all'

  • Matt Trollope

Caroline Wozniacki admits she is unsure how she will react when her tennis career ends at Australian Open 2020.

As per usual, she warmed up for the year’s first Grand Slam tournament at the WTA event in Auckland, where this year she reached the semifinals. This week, she has been training and preparing at Melbourne Park ahead of her 13th Australian Open campaign.

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It feels like business as usual for the Dane. Except this is a foreign scenario for her.

“I have no idea (how I’ll react). It's not a situation that I've ever been in. It's hard to tell,” said Wozniacki, who opens on Monday against American Kristie Ahn.

“I'm just enjoying being out there. I've had some great practice sessions. I've done everything I could to prepare as well as I can for this tournament, then hope for the best.”

The 29-year-old announced her decision to retire after the Australian Open in early December last year, ending a career in which she achieved the highest of highs.

She first rose to world No.1 in 2010 and the returned to top spot after her thrilling win over Simona Halep in the 2018 final at Melbourne Park, a triumph delivering her a long-awaited first Grand Slam singles title.

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Just seven months after that victory, however, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis; beginning season 2019 ranked No.3, she slipped to 37th by the end of it after posting a win-loss record of 20-15.

'I've achieved a lot. I've given it my all. Honestly, I'm leaving with no regrets at all because I've worked so hard my whole life, my whole career. I've given it literally everything that I have to reach where I got'
Caroline Wozniacki

Wozniacki said she was simply looking to enjoy the experience of playing her last ever professional tournament, at a site with such happy memories.

“I'm sure once the last ball is hit, it's going to be a bit emotional,” she said.

“I've achieved a lot. I've given it my all. Honestly, I'm leaving with no regrets at all because I've worked so hard my whole life, my whole career. I've given it literally everything that I have to reach where I got.

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“It doesn't feel the same. I still want to work hard, but I want to do something different. I want to try and achieve something else.

“I'm very proud of everything that I've achieved (in tennis), very proud of the ups and the downs. But especially to be able to just continually push myself to be a better player, I feel like I've given a lot to the sport that I can be very proud of.”

Caroline Wozniacki at practice on Friday

Her triumphant match point at Rod Laver Arena in the final two years ago is one of the tournament’s more enduring memories.

It is something Halep remembers too, slightly less fondly, but as a moment that also paved the way for her biggest breakthrough.

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“It's been always a positive memory for me. I always said that match gave me confidence that in one day I'm going to win a Grand Slam. It was a very, very good match,” the Romanian reflected on Saturday.

“Every time I'm thinking about Australian Open, that match comes up. It gives me confidence, gives me the belief that I have a chance to play well here.

“I think it was a great tournament for both of us. For her it was better, for sure (smiling).”

Halep arrives at Melbourne Park as the world No.4 and reigning Wimbledon champion, seeking her third Grand Slam title after first winning at Roland Garros in 2018.

Yet at her first event of 2020, her week in Adelaide was cut short by a rampaging Aryna Sabalenka, who hit Halep off the court in a 6-4 6-2 decision in the quarterfinals.

“I took lessons from that match. I tried to play too strong as she likes it. (I need to be) a little bit better with the return, because she has a huge serve. I have few things that I have to improve,” said Halep, who opens against American Jennifer Brady.

“I feel good in my tennis even if I don't have many matches. I did my best in Adelaide, but I couldn't win that match because Sabalenka was literally too strong.

“But coming here, having extra days for practice and to get used to the court and atmosphere, it's a positive. I feel good. I'm ready actually to start.”

Simona Halep during her media conference on Friday

One player not lacking match practice coming into Australian Open 2020 is Karolina Pliskova, who for the second straight year won the Brisbane International.

Pliskova went on to reach the 2019 semifinals at Melbourne Park and came within a whisker of beating eventual champion Naomi Osaka.

This time around she will need to be sharp from the very first ball; the No.2 seed faces former top-10 player Kristina Mladenovic in round one.

“I don't know actually in which form she is right now. I know it's going to be a lot about me. Even if she's playing great, I think I can still beat her,” Pliskova said.

“I'm sure it's going to be difficult. For sure not an easy round. At least I know which level I can play here these days.

“Actually by winning Brisbane, I think it's good to have this week off. I just continuing what I was doing in Brisbane. I thought it was working well. So did some good days of practice. Now it's more getting into the rhythm of tournament by playing matches very soon.

“Everything is fine. I feel physically good. Mentally, too. So I think I'm ready to start the tournament.”

If the seedings hold, Halep and Pliskova could clash in the semifinals.