In case you’re looking for the best story of the US Open, Caroline Wozniacki retired for three years, had two kids, came back and beat the tournament’s No. 11 seed.
The former world No. 1 defeated Petra Kvitova 7-5, 7-6 (5) at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday, advancing to the third round in her first Grand Slam since the 2020 Australian Open. Now 33 years old, she will face American Jennifer Brady in her next match.
It was a close match throughout between Wozniacki and Kvitova, who were once ranked the No. 1 and 2 players in the world. Wozniacki has always been known as a defensive specialist and that reputation bore out early in the match, with the players exchanging breaks throughout the first set.
There were times when it was hard to distinguish between 2011 and 2023 Wozniacki.
Wozniacki began to impress more with her serve in the second set, and finished the match with five aces and wins in 39 of her 53 first serve points. She was a break away from winning the match twice, but Kvitova held serve both times to force the tiebreaker.
It wasn’t the cleanest match by any means. Kvitova, often her own worst enemy, was the more aggressive player with 38 winners … and 39 unforced errors, plus a double-fault in the tiebreaker.
Once the match was over, Wozniacki couldn’t hold back the tears:
Wozniacki opted to retire at the 2020 Australian Open, the tournament where she won her only Grand Slam title in 2018. Not only had her form declined over the years due to injuries, she was also fighting excruciating pain from rheumatoid arthritis.
“If you had asked me three years ago, I would have said I’d never be back here, playing on this court,” Wozniacki said to ESPN after the match.
Over the course of the next three years, Wozniacki had a daughter and son with her husband, former NBA player David Lee. She later said she didn’t hit a tennis ball until after having both children, a layoff of more than two years. But then she got back on the court and realized she was having a lot more fun.
On June 29 this year, she announced in a Vogue article she was returning to tennis with the goal of playing, and winning, the US Open
Victoria Azarenka, Kim Clijsters, and Serena [Williams] have already shown what it takes to have a child and return to the tour. It’s not easy by any means, but it is possible.
Am I nervous? Not really. I’m coming back to something I love. Yes, I’ll be nervous before a match; I’m okay with that. I’m great with that. Can I win the US Open? I think so. Can I win the Australian Open? I think so. That’s why I’m doing this. And I guess we’ll see what happens.
I think it’s a great story. I think it’s awesome.
Wozniacki won her return match at the Canadian Open and lost in the second round, then played one more tune-up at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. And with Wednesday’s win, she confirmed her comeback is indeed real.