Caroline Wozniacki’s Fitting Farewell To Tennis - UBITENNIS
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Caroline Wozniacki’s Fitting Farewell To Tennis

The 29-year-old tennis star might not have been praised by everybody, but her upcoming departure will leave a noticeable gap on the WTA Tour.

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Caroline Wozniacki poses with the 2018 Australian Open women's trophy

It was news that many expected in recent weeks, but when it was announced there was still a sense of shock.

 

In less than two months time Caroline Wozniacki will end a career that has made her the most decorated Danish Tennis player of all time. In a lengthy Instagram post, she confirmed the upcoming Australian Open will be her last tournament. She states that her decision is not health-related and instead wants to embark upon other activities. Including starting a family with her husband David Lee. A former NBA player who retired in 2017 at the age of 34.

“I’ve always told myself, when the time comes, that there are things away from tennis that I want to do more, then it’s time to be done,” Wozniacki wrote. “In recent months, I’ve realized that there is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court.”

Wozniacki’s rise in the sport started almost 15 years ago on the junior circuit where she eventually peaked at a high of number two. She claimed a series of prestigious titles, including the 2006 Wimbledon Girls title and was runner-up at the Australian Open that same year. Due to her results, she stopped playing junior events at the age of 16.

“I am only 16 years old, but if I train hard, have some luck and avoid injuries, then I think it is possible to get to the top. And then I get the opportunity to take part in the victory party at Wimbledon,” she told Kristeligt Dagblad back in 2006.

Whilst never managing to get her name on the Wimbledon trophy, the 29-year-old still managed to excel on the court. Guided on the tour by her father, Piotr, she quickly emerged as one of the rising stars of the sport by cracking the world’s top 20 at the age of 18. Aided by her first trio of WTA titles won during the second half of 2008. Generating rapidly rising interest in her back in her home country.

Establishing herself as a top player, it was just a matter of time before she would clinch the No.1 spot. She achieved the milestone in October 2010 when she reached the quarter-finals of the China Open, which she went on to win. Wozniacki would go on to hold the No.1 position for 71 weeks during three separate periods throughout her career. The ninth longest span in the Open Era on the WTA Tour.

The grand slam struggles

During the majority of her time at the top, Wozniacki’s struggle to claim a grand slam title placed her in line for numerous criticism. Some of which at times were unfair. The high expectation stemmed from the 2009 US Open where she reached the final at the age of 19. One of the most (if not the most) critical articles to come out was from Bleacher Report, who blasted Wozniacki when she was just 20!

“Wozniacki has struggled her whole career to triumph over top players on the biggest stages, and it’s not just a coincidence that she has failed.” the article reads.
“Caroline Wozniacki may be the women’s No. 1 player according to the ranking system, but she doesn’t deserve to be.”

At one stage it did appear that the window for Wozniacki to clinch a major trophy had closed, but she never gave up and finally achieved her goal. Nine years after her first appearance in a grand slam final, she won the 2018 Australian Open. Taking on Simona Halep in a dramatic final, she prevailed 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4, after almost three hours of play.

“It’s really nice not to have to answer the ‘no Grand Slam’ question ever again and now finally I have the world No 1 and a Grand Slam title. It’s very special.”

So far Wozniacki has played in 50 grand slam tournaments. Winning 117 out of 187 matches played.

The off-court challenges

Caroline Wozniacki at the 2019 Australian Open (photo Roberto Dell’Olivo)

Injuries and burnouts had blighted the Dane throughout her career, but just months after lifting the Australian Open trophy Wozniacki faced a whole new challenge. After suffering from bouts of illness, she was eventually diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. A long-term autoimmune disorder that affects the joints. There is no cure for the condition which can cause swelling, stiffness and pain in numerous parts of the body. Symptoms can also include tiredness and a fever.

Despite the diagnosis, Wozniacki never blamed the condition on any of her performances on the court. Even when she announced her retirement, the Dane stressed that it wasn’t health related.

“It makes some things more challenging, but I feel great in the day-to-day. I feel like I can do anything, and I’ve won some of my biggest titles of my career with this illness,” she told people.com earlier this month. “I never wanted to use RA as an excuse for anything.”

In In her retirement plans, Wozniacki has already outlined her goal to want to promote her condition. Hoping to inspire others.

“We’re launching a new health education campaign centred around rheumatoid arthritis,” she said. “I felt that it was important that I use my platform to share my story and show that anything is possible, regardless of RA.”

Why retire now?

Currently ranked 37th in the world and yet to turn 30, it could be argued that Wozniacki should carry on playing for a couple more years. However, she has never wanted to do that. When asked during the 2015 Dubai Tennis Championships if she wanted to emulate the Williams sisters and play into her 30s, she replied ‘no, I don’t think so.’

Wozniacki has the luxury of being able to retire on her own terms. Now approaching the end of her tennis career, she has won 30 WTA titles. She has won just over $35.2 million in prize money, which is the fourth highest of all-time for a female tennis player (as of this week). To put into perspective how popular she has become in Denmark, newspaper Ekstra Bladet devoted 12 pages to her following the announcement.

“She’s the greatest athlete we’ve ever had here,” former Danish player Peter Bastiansen wrote in an editorial for bt.dk.
“In the field of individual sports, she has achieved the greatest ever by a Dane, considering that she has been number one on the world rankings on several occasions and won a grand slam.”

Whilst Wozniacki is likely to end her career without multiple grand slam titles, her determination enabled her to stay among the top of the women’s game for almost a decade. Something even her critics have to admire her for. It is only fitting that she should end her career at the venue where she achieved her grand slam dream.

Women’s tennis will lose a big figure in the sport, but her legacy will stay forever.

Wozniacki’s career in numbers

30 – number of WTA titles
71 – weeks spent as world No.1
432– Wozniacki has won more matches on a hard court than any other non-American player on the women’s tour
630 – number of matches won
$35,218,415 – prize money earned so far

Grand Slam

Karolina Pliskova And Belinda Bencic Join Mass Exodus Of Seeds At Australian Open

The list of upsets in the women’s draw at the Australian Open grew ever longer as Karolina Pliskova and Belinda Bencic lost.

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Karolina Pliskova (@tribundergi on Twitter)

It was all going so well for the seeded players in the Women’s Singles at the 2020 Australian Open. 21 of them made it through to the last 32. And, for the first time since 2007, that contingent included all of the top ten.

 

Then the third round began on day five and all hell broke loose. First, 8th seed Serena Williams lost to Wang Qiang. Then 10th seed Madison Keys was defeated by Maria Sakkari. And, as if that was not already enough for one day, 3rd seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka was knocked out by Coco Gauff.

It is now day six, and 2nd seed Karolina Pliskova and 6th seed Belinda Bencic have joined the list of high-profile casualties in round three due to losses to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Anett Kontaveit respectively.

The Czech, 27, competed very strongly with her Russian opponent throughout. She matched her in almost every department, and both sets of the match went to a tie-break.

However, Pavlyuchenkova outgunned Pliskova in both tie-breaks with some impressive ball-striking as she hit a series of winners to earn a 7-6(4) 7-6(3) victory over the 2nd seed.

Bencic has a day to forget

Bencic experienced something of a waking nightmare. She made ten unforced errors and won just ten points as she lost the first set 6-0 to Kontaveit in just 21 minutes.

The second set started in a similar fashion. The Swiss lost the first three games and faced the embarrassing prospect of joining the list of players who have suffered a 6-0 6-0 loss in a Grand Slam if she did not get her act together.

Then Bencic finally won a game to make it 3-1. After that, she competed much better with the Estonian for the remainder of the match. But of course, by then it was much too late. Kontaveit completed a dominant 6-0 6-1 win in 49 minutes.

Donna Vekic was due to meet the Swiss in the fourth round if both players made it that far. Ultimately, neither did, as the Croatian also sustained a surprising loss when she went down 7-5 6-3 to 18-year-old rising star Iga Swiatek.

The defeats of Pliskova and Bencic mean that five of the top ten have now departed from the draw at the last-32 stage. 5th seed Elina Svitolina and 9th seed Kiki Bertens play this evening. Will they survive or will they join the ever-growing list of top players that have suffered unexpected exits?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WTA

Sofia Kenin sets up clash with Cori Gauff in Melbourne

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Number 14 seed Sofia Kenin battled past China’s Zhang Shuai 7-5 7-6 (9-7) in a late-night hard-fought match to book her spot in the Australian Open fourth round against Cori Gauff.

 

Kenin reached the third round for the first time at this tournament without dropping a set. The US 21-year-old player fought back from a set point down twice in the opening set. She went down a break early in the second set before taking the tie-break.

Zhang went up a 3-0 lead in the opening set and saved five break points in a hard-fought fifth game.  Kenin broke back with two forehands to draw level, as Zhang was serving for the set. The US player completed the come-back by winning five consecutive games from 2-5 down to win the opening set 7-5.

Both players traded breaks twice in the second set en route to the tie-break. Kenin earned a mini-break on the ninth point before winning the tie-break on the third match point to set up a fourth round match against Cori Gauff, who beat defending champion Naomi Osaka.

“It’s late, but I am happy to have gone through and I am really excited. I was just fighting. There were a lot of close shots, so I needed to step up my game and I am so proud of myself. I was not aware that I was playing Gauff. She is playing really well. She had a great 2019 season. I am going to enjoy the moment right now”, said Kenin.

 

 

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‘Best Match’ Of 2020 Changes Nothing For Ash Barty At Australian Open

The reigning French Open champion explains why she doesn’t consider herself the frontrunner in Melbourne.

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World No.1 Ash Barty has vowed not to get ahead of herself despite producing a dominant display in her latest match at the Australian Open.

 

Barty, who is seeking to become the first home player to win a singles title in Melbourne Park since 1978, dropped just five games during her 6-3, 6-2, win over Elena Rybakina. Who won the Hobart International last week. Despite being tested at times by the 29th seed, Barty prevailed with the help of 28 winners as she broke five times during the 79-minute match.

“I think today was probably my sharpest match that I played. I felt really comfortable moving around the court. I felt like I found the middle of the racquet a lot sooner than my other matches.” Barty commented during her press conference.
“Particularly there were tough, long service games. I was able to get out of them and continue the momentum. I think all in all it was a pretty well-rounded performance.”

The win follows her victories over Lesia Tsurenko and Polona Hercog earlier in the tournament. Barty is now on a seven-match winning streak after winning the Adelaide International last week. Her first ever WTA title on Australian soil.

As the top seed in the women’s draw, the 23-year-old is carrying the burden of expectation on her shoulders. Although the WTA Tour is renowned for its unpredictability with the last 12 major tournaments being won by 10 different players. During that time, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep is the only players to have won multiple trophies. At the Australian Open specifically, the last time the tournament was won by the number one seed was in 2015 by Serena Williams.

It is perhaps for this reason why Barty is remaining coy about her chances over the coming days. After branding her latest victory as the best of 2020 so far, she once again played down the idea of being the favourite to win.

“I’ve said from the very start, for us it’s about coming out here and enjoying it. I’m loving every minute. Trying to do the best I can. That’s all I can ask of myself.” She said.
“There’s a ‘No. 1’ next to my name and that’s about it. I think my family is the same. I’m the same.”

Danger lurks for the Australian in the next round with a rematch against Alison Riske looming. Riske was the player who knocked Barty out of Wimbledon last year. The American 18th seed edged out Julia Goerges in three sets in her third round match.

Barty doesn’t appear to be too traumatised by the loss at the The All England Club. Blaming it on a combination of factors such as tiredness and the quick turnaround from winning her first grand slam title at the French Open. She states that she lost no sleep over the defeat.

Meanwhile, Riske herself admits that she faces a tough task of repeating her Wimbledon heroics.

“It’s going to be a different experience. I’m playing on her home turf. I expect the fans against me, as they should be. It’s going to be a battle. So I’m looking forward to it.” She said.

Should Barty prevail in the next round, she will progress to the last eight of the Australian Open for only the second time in her career.

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