Thanks for visiting the Australian Open Website. We can see you’re using Internet Explorer, and wanted to let you know that we will no longer be supporting this browser in future. We’d recommend you download a new browser if you'd like to continue keeping up with all of the latest tennis news!

Wozniacki: “I'm playing some amazing tennis, and a lot more free”

  • Matt Trollope

When Caroline Wozniacki made a celebrated comeback in August this year, the unanimous response from tennis media, fans and fellow players was: “It looks like she’s never been away.”

While true at first glance, Wozniacki – now a 33-year-old mother of two – is a changed player, with a completely different perspective on her career compared with when she initially retired after a third-round loss at Melbourne Park in 2020.

Wozniacki’s comeback will continue at Australian Open 2024 thanks to a main-draw wildcard.

TICKETS: Catch Wozniacki in action at AO 2024

She will return to Australia for the first time in four years, and to a tournament she won in 2018. That marked her first Grand Slam singles title, a victory which saw her reclaim the world No.1 ranking she first attained in October 2010.

"It's really incredible that I get another chance of competing in Australia; I really thought when I retired in 2020 that that was going to be my last tournament, my last match,” Wozniacki said during an interview on this week’s episode of The AO Show podcast.

LISTEN: The AO Show podcast

RELATED: Fritz hoping Aussie summer a launchpad for strong 2024

“There was a reason why I decided to (retire) in Australia, is because it's so special to me. I feel I have so much support there, I obviously won my first Grand Slam there, and it's just the happy Slam.

“But, lo and behold, three years later, I realised I still have something to give to the sport, and my passion's still there, and I feel like I'm still young enough to give it one last try.

"I can't believe that it's only five weeks away. It feels like after the US Open I had so much time to prepare, and all of a sudden it's really sneaking up on me.

“I'm just so excited to be back.”

An eye-opening comeback

The last time we saw Wozniacki on court was more than three months ago, in New York.

She’d advanced to the fourth round of the US Open in just her third tournament back, extending eventual champion Coco Gauff to three sets before bowing out.

Her return was instructive, in several ways.

Wozniacki had no idea how her body would cope with the intensity of a return to professional tennis, given she’d barely touched a racquet in the three-and-a-half years since departing.

Maternity breaks and comebacks are nothing new in women’s tennis. But very few players have returned after two pregnancies like Wozniacki, who gave birth to daughter Olivia in June 2021, then son James in October 2022.

She admitted this in itself, before even thinking about playing tennis, was “hectic”.

"I don't think I appreciated how having one child was a lot less crazy, I think, in our household,” she laughed. “The two of them together, I mean, that is a full-time job.”

Having maintained a good level of fitness and strength through yoga, Pilates and weight training during her absence, she honed in on cardio when plans for a comeback took shape.

But there were challenges. Woznaicki manages chronic rheumatoid arthritis – which can affect how hard she can push her body, depending on the day – and two children meant she had to be flexible with her training timetable.

“We're on the phone right now, talking here, and it's 8pm, and I'm going to the gym after, because I put my kids to bed and that was the time I had today,” she told us. 

“I used to look at the people when I was in my car driving; it was dark outside and people were out running, and (think): ‘What are people doing at 9pm, 10pm running and working out?’ And now I totally get it. Now I understand. Now I'm one of those people (smiling).

AO 2024: Seven ways the Australian Open hits different

“Having to learn to take baby steps and coming back and not rushing everything was for me, mentally, a little tough. Because I've always been the person saying ‘go, go, go’, a thousand miles an hour all the time. 

“At the same time, I think I really also appreciate my body and what it's been able to do and how strong it is. I've chosen to really build up some of the strength (in) a few places that were missing on my body, and really getting it into probably the best shape of my life. 

“I didn't know where it was going to be and what was possible. For me to feel as physically great as I do, and strong as I do, I feel very proud of that.”

A changed tennis landscape

As well as her physical gains, Wozniacki believes her journey has helped her become more mature and mentally stronger on court.

Together it all bodes well, given she returns to a tour that has progressed in power, athleticism and intensity – and a new-look world order.

In the time since her retirement, two new major-winning world No.1s have emerged in Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, plus several other young Grand Slam champions, including Elena Ryabkina and Gauff.

RELATED: Women's game benefitting from Swiatek effect

This quartet is now the world’s top four; none of them were inside the top 10 when Wozniacki last played the Australian Open.

When she faced 19-year-old Gauff at the US Open, Wozniacki – almost 14 years older – had never encountered a player that much younger than herself across the net in a professional match.

Caroline Wozniacki (L) and Coco Gauff meet at net after the fourth-round match at the 2023 US Open. [Getty Images]

The 6-3 3-6 6-1 loss provided her with a clearer picture of what she needed to work on.

And it’s why she’s been “hunkering down” ever since, preparing for an assault on the tour in 2024.

“(I) felt like I was close to win that match, but I still just missed a couple of things,” said Wozniacki, who beat Petra Kvitova and Jennifer Brady in her two previous matches.

“I felt, in my game and physically, where I was like, I know where I need to go, I know where I am, I know where I need and want to be to be able to beat the best players in the world on a consistent basis, and that's I think very encouraging that I wasn't very far away.

“I'm very confident and comfortable coming into this new season, having played those three tournaments prior, and just knowing that my game is great, and now physically I just needed to step it up a little bit more.”

“It was really innocent”

It is almost by accident Wozniacki has found herself back in this position.

A comeback wasn’t in her plans; she felt compelled to hit again simply to shake up a gym and fitness routine that had become monotonous.

“I texted my friend, who I've been hitting with on a regular basis throughout my career, and said: ‘Hey, can we set up a once-a-week hit, just so that I can get a sweat going and a little bit of cardio?’ 

“That's kind of how it started – it was really innocent. I didn't really have any other motives other than just trying to get back into shape after James was born. 

“I needed a break after playing for so many years, and I didn't miss hitting balls at all … And all of a sudden I just go, ‘Wow, I miss hitting a clean ball, I miss hitting it in the middle of the racquet’. Let's just go out there, get a sweat going, get the timing and just have fun with it. 

“It was a completely different mindset, and I think that's also why I felt like I hit the ball better than ever, because there was no pressure, no reason to stress over anything.” 

When she revealed her comeback plans in a piece published in Vogue, she said she believed she could win the US Open and the Australian Open. “That’s why I’m doing this,” she wrote.

Having already reached the second week in New York, she could be an even more potent force at Australian Open 2024. 

That’s because she’s carried that freer mindset into her comeback – a perspective shift brought on by all the changes in her life since first retiring.

“I think seeing tennis from the outside, and doing some commentating and all of that… Also having my kids, and they don't care (about my results) – they're just thrilled that I'm from work,” Wozniacki said.

“I tell Olivia, ‘I have to go to work’, and she goes, ‘OK, but when you come back, can you play with me?’ She doesn't care if I've won or lost a match – she just wants to hang out and she's thrilled to see me. So it just puts things in perspective.

“I'm so fortunate to be able to play the game that I love and that I'm pretty good at. It just gives me the freedom to know, ‘OK, you know what? I don't know how long I have left to play, but when I'm out there I'm going to give it my all’. If someone is going to beat me, then congratulations – you were better than me that day, and I'm going to go home and work harder.

“I think having that great balance in my life has really contributed to the fact that I feel like I'm playing some amazing tennis, and a lot more free.”