By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – While most of her rivals are looking for a strong showing at Melbourne Park to kickstart their seasons, a defeat for Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open will bring an end to 15 years of hitting a ball over a net for a living.
Keen to move on to the next stage of her life with her husband of seven months, former NBA All Star David Lee, Wozniacki has decided that the 108th Australian Open will be her last tournament.
A loss to American Kristie Ahn in the second match on Melbourne Arena on Monday, however unlikely, would therefore bring down the curtain on a career that has earned her more than $35 million from winnings alone.
“I’ve just approached it like any other tournament but obviously it’s different since it’s my last one,” the 29-year-old Dane told reporters on Saturday.
“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.
“I have my family here, which is great. I’m sure once the last ball is hit, it’s going to be a bit emotional.”
Wozniacki hit the world number one spot for the third time in her career in 2018 after winning her maiden Grand Slam singles crown by beating Simona Halep in the Australian Open final.
Later that year she revealed she had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful autoimmune disease that affects the joints.
That, she was keen to point out, was not behind her decision to retire before her 30th birthday and she expanded on her reasoning at Melbourne Park.
“I’ve achieved a lot. I’ve given it my all. Every single day I go out and I work so hard to stay at the top or to get back to the top, whatever it may be,” she said.
“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, some other things in life.
“Life is short. I know that the tennis career is short. There’s plenty of time outside to do whatever I want. At the same time, you know, you just have to go with what feels right.”
Always a player who revealed a little more hinterland of her life than some of her rivals, Wozniacki said she wanted to “chill” and visit some “cool places” with Lee once she finally hung up her racket for good.
With 36-year-old Kim Clijsters planning another comeback this season after seven years away from tennis, Wozniacki was naturally asked whether she might also one day reconsider her decision to retire.
“I love what tennis has given me, I love competing,” she said. “But if you ask me right now, I say no. Sometimes I guess you can never say never (but) I don’t think so.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)