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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

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Retirement Still On For Carla Suarez Navarro, But Will She End Her Career This Year?

The former top 10 player speaks out about her plans in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Last December Carla Suarez Navarro stated that she will hang up her racket later this year for good. Then came along something that nobody saw coming.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world of tennis to a standstill with all tournaments suspended until June. Completely wiping out the entire European clay-court swing and triggering the French Open being played in September. For Suarez Navarro, it has also ruined her plans of saying goodbye at her home tournament in Madrid where she would have made her 10th and final appearance.

Like many around the world, Suarez Navarro is housebound in Las Palmas, where she is staying with her parents. In her home country of Spain there have been more than 2000 deaths due to the Coronavirus. It is a far from ideal scenario for the Spaniard, who is currently staying in a flat with little training. However, she is still hoping to say her goodbye to the sport in 2020.

“As of today I am not considering it, I said that 2020 would be my last year and it will be almost 100% that way.” Suarez Navarro told Mundo Deportivo.
“We will see if we can play more tennis or not this year, my favourite tournaments have been cancelled and I will not be able to say goodbye for the last time in a few Olympics because they will surely be cancelled.’
“If it (the WTA Tour) were not played more in 2020, I would see a possibility of being able to say goodbye in Madrid 2021.” She added.

Peaking at a high of sixth in the world, the 31-year-old has won two WTA titles during her career out of 11 final appearances. One of which was a Premier 5 event at the 2016 Qatar Open. She has also reached the quarter-final of seven grand slams, including both the Australian Open and US Open in 2018.

“At the moment I have not been able to say goodbye to some tournaments that for me were very special, we will see what happens from now on with tennis tournaments.” She said.

Due to the uncertainty of current events, it is unclear as to when Suarez Navarro and her rivals will return to action. At present both the ATP and WTA are looking into restructuring their calendar following the changing of the French Open dates. A decision that has been criticised by the world No.68.

“I was stunned when I read it, but it was normal for something like this to happen with what was happening around the world.” She commented about the decision taken by the French Tennis Federation.
“I think the most appropriate thing was to say that it was postponed but not to directly put dates that do not fit very well in our calendar. As I said, what happens in a few months, we do not know today.”

Suarez Navarro has recorded 28 wins over top 10 players throughout her career.

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French Open Champion Ash Barty Reacts To Tournament Date Change

The 23-year-old Australian says she is unfazed about when the tournament will be taking place.

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World No.1 Ash Barty has vowed to defend her title at the French Open whenever it takes place amid the recent fallout concerning the grand slam.

 

Earlier this week the French Tennis Federation (FFT) confirmed the tournament will be delayed until the last week of September due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will now take place a week after the US Open and is currently set to clash with the Laver Cup. Players and even some tennis officials have criticised the FTT for a lack of communication regarding their plans.

Speaking out about the situation, reigning champion Barty said that she is yet to speak with tournament director Guy Forget. It had been previously reported that the men’s champion, Rafael Nadal, was personally contacted about the date change. Nevertheless, the Australian said she hopes that she will have the chance to defend her title later this year.

“I haven’t spoken to Guy Forget but I’m happy to play the tournament whenever it is scheduled,” Barty told the Australian Associated Press.
“I hope I get the chance to defend my title in September – any opportunity to compete is something I’ll grab with both hands.
“There are more important things going on in the world right now, though, and I will do whatever helps keep us all safe and healthy.”

It was at Roland Garros, where the 23-year-old won her first and so far only grand slam title. Last year she dropped only two sets in eight matches en route to the title. Becoming the first player from her country to win the tournament since Margaret Court back in 1973.

Barty will remain at the top of the WTA rankings for the next three months after they have been frozen by the governing body. In a joint-decision, the WTA and ATP have suspended all tournaments until June 7th due to the pandemic. Urging the world of tennis to unite in what was an indirect swipe at the FFT and their decision about the French Open.

“Now is not a time to act unilaterally, but in unison. All decisions related to the impact of the coronavirus require appropriate consultation and review with the stakeholders in the game, a view that is shared by ATP, WTA, ITF, AELTC, Tennis Australia, and USTA.” The statement said.

So far this year, Barty has won 11 out of 14 matches played on the tour. Winning the Adelaide International back in January. Five out of her 11 wins were over top 20 players.

Should there be no further delay to the tour calendar, then next women’s events set to take place are in Nottingham and ‘s-Hertogenbosch on grass.

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Five Things To Know About Teenage Tennis Star Coco Gauff

The American has just celebrated her 16th birthday, but she already achieved a series of impressive accolades in the sport.

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Few people in the world have been able to make more than $800,000 in prize money from playing competitive sport before their 16th birthday. However, Coco Gauff is one of the few who have been able to do so.

 

The American teenager has been a revelation on the tour over the past year. Triggering a sharp rise in both fans and endorsements. Currently ranked 52nd in the world, she is the only player under the age of 17 in the top 100. As a junior, she proclaimed that she wanted to be ‘the best in the world’ in tennis and is currently on the right trajectory to rise to the top in only a matter of time.

“I first meet Cori when she was 10 at my academy,” coach Patrick Mouratoglou once told Ubitennis.
“She’s very special and has the two major qualities that you cannot teach. First of all, she is a great competitor. That is something very difficult to teach. Secondly, she’s a natural athlete. You can build (a player) physically, but natural athleticism is something you have or don’t have.’
“She’s a hard worker, which is something not everybody has and this is very important to reach the top of the game.” He added.

Gauff is undoubtedly fast becoming a household name and here are five things you need to know about the rising star.

1. Sport is in her blood

Born in Florida on March 13th 2004, Gauff’s parents were both keen athletes. Her father Corey played basketball at Golden State University. Meanwhile, her mother, Candi, excelled in Track and Field whilst at Florida State University. Gauff played both of those sports growing up, but it was talent and love for tennis that steered her away from them.

“I did basketball and track (athletics). Those were my favourite besides tennis. I was the only girl on the all-boys team for basketball. Which I actually kind of liked. On the track I did 800 meters and the 4x400M relay.” She told Ubitennis in 2019.
“Obviously tennis would be the best.”

2. She already has an extensive endorsement portfolio

In 2019 Forbes magazine estimated that the teenager will make $1 million in endorsements alone. She has already scored deals with shoe brand New Balance, racket manufacturer Head and prestigious Italian pasta company Barilla. Barilla are also known for their extensive work with 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer.

British newspaper The Telegraph has projected Gauff’s earnings to be in the range of £20 million before she reaches her twenties. This is according to Rob Mills, who is the chief executive of sport and entertainment measurement company Turnstile Sport.

“She is obviously young and you’ve got to see that consistency coming through, but if you look at say (Naomi) Osaka’s deals, we’re in the 8.5million US dollars territory. She’s going to be very quickly in that range very conceivably in the next 12 to 24 months. That’s only the sports brand category.” Mills predicts.

3. A member of Federer’s Team8

Managing the financial side of her career is Alessandro Barel Di Sant Albanoof from the agency Team8. A company co-founded by Federer and his agent Tony Godsick. The partnership has enabled the American to learn from and even mirror the Swiss maestro when it comes to the world of tennis. Both on the court and dealing with the financial side.

“Having insight on what Roger does definitely helps and while I don’t model him exactly on every point, I model some routines after him and how he handles himself,” Gauff told Forbes.com last month. “Being close to Serena (Williams) and close to Roger is really a plus for me and an advantage I have to take care of.”

The two have held numerous exchanges. One of their earliest dates back to the 2018 Australian Open where Gauff lost her opening match in the junior tournament. Following the defeat, she received some valuable advice from Federer.

“He told me not to focus too much on the pressure or the outside drama. He gave me some perspective,” Gauff recalled.
“Now, I try to enjoy the tennis and I barely think of that fist-round loss two years later.”

4. A big time player in grand slams

Despite her young age, Gauff has already exceeded expectations in the major tournaments. Her rise on the tour started last summer when she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier before losing to eventual champion Simona Halep. Becoming the youngest player to do so since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.

Wimbledon wasn’t just a one-off for the American. She also managed to reach the last 32 at both the US Open and Australian Open before her 16th birthday. Reaching the third round or better at her first three grand slam appearances. A milestone that both of the Williams sisters were unable to do.

It was at this year’s Australian Open where Gauff recorded her most high-profile win when she downed the then world No.4 and defending champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets. Becoming the youngest woman to score a win over a top-five player in a grand slam since Jennifer Capriati upset world No.3 Gabriela Sabatini in the quarter-finals of the 1991 US Open.

“I’m doing well right now at 15, [but] I still have so much I feel like I can get better at. I don’t even think this is close to a peak for me.” She told reporters in January.


So far in her career, Gauff has won eight grand slam main draw matches. Three at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open, as well as two at the US Open. She is just the third player in the past 30 years to have earned eight grand slam wins before turning 16.

5. Already a WTA Champion

In October 2019 Gauff won the most prestigious title in her blossoming career to date. Securing entry into the main draw of the Linz Open as a lucky loser, she stunned top seed Kiki Bertens and Andrea Petkovic en route to her maiden WTA final. Standing in her way was former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who she downed 6-3, 1-6, 6-2, to win her first WTA title.

“This was definitely not on the calendar at the beginning of the year, because I didn’t think I’d have a chance to get in, and now I’m the champion.“ She commented on her triumph.
“It’s just insane that I got in as a lucky loser and now I’m the champion. My dad told me when I got in, before the first main‑draw match, he said: ‘You can’t lose twice in the same tournament.’ I’m sure he never thought it would come this far, to being the champion, but I guess he was right.”

Gauff is the youngest WTA champion since Nicole Vaidisova back in 2004. Furthermore, she is the youngest American WTA champion since 1991. Both Serena and Venus were 17 when they won their first trophy on the tour.

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