Former Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki postponed her pending retirement by at least a match when she upset Ukrainian rising star Dayana Yastremska, 7-5 7-5, in a roller coaster encounter at Melbourne Park on Wednesday, and then later accused her opponent of gamesmanship.
Yeah, obviously she tried to break my rhythm. And at 5-4 I don't think there is anything wrong. She was running just fine. So that's a trick that she's done before, and I knew that it was coming. But I was just trying to stay focused. Caroline Wozniacki
The win extends Wozniacki’s career on the tour before she retires from the sport at the age of 29 at the conclusion of her campaign in Melbourne, where she won her first and only Grand slam title back in 2018.
Looking back, she pinpoints the guidance of her coach and father, Piotr Wozniacki, as one of the key factors behind her success over the years.
Her milestones include winning 30 WTA titles and spending 71 weeks as World No 1.
As of this week, Wozniacki is one of only 5 player in history to have made more than $35 million in prize money on the WTA Tour.
“I think sticking with my dad and that partnership has made me the player that I am today,” she told reporters in Melbourne.
“I definitely wouldn’t have been where I am today if it wasn’t for him because the trust that was there between us and just the journey I think was amazing.”
Regardless of her pending retirement, the Dane is very much living in the moment where she is relishing the support she is receiving from the crowd.
Unseeded, the great Dane went done a double break in both sets before battling back to edge out the 23rd seed, trailing 1-5 in the opener and then 0-3 in the second.
“I was trying to think what to do out there to change that and she started making a few more unforced errors. I got a little more depth on the ball and I started serving a little bit better.” Wozniacki commented on her comeback.
“All of a sudden I kept getting one point after another and started getting the belief that I could get that set.”
In the end it was the greater consistency that saw Wozniacki over the finish line.
During the match she hit 15 winners and unforced errors, compared to big-hitting Yastremska’s more erratic tally of 36 and 47.
The 19-year-old Yastremska, beaten by World No 1 Ash Barty in last week’s final in Adelaide, threatened to put a swift end to Wozniacki’s career, but having been 5-1 down in the first set, the Dane, who suffers with rheumatoid arthritis, which causes fatigue and joint pain, fought back to claim the set in 53 tough minutes.
Now ranked 36th, having ended 2010 and 2011 at number one in the world, Wozniacki was similarly quickly down 3-0 in the second set but, once again, she battled back to make it 4-4, then held her own serve to lead 5-4 and within touching distance of round three.
Yastremska then required a medical time-out for what appeared to be a left thigh problem, and returned to court with heavy strapping.
Wozniacki wasn’t impressed with her tactics and later suggested the Ukrainian was notorious for pulling such a stunt.
“Yeah, obviously she tried to break my rhythm,” Wozniacki said. “And at 5-4 I don’t think there is anything wrong. She was running just fine.
“So that’s a trick that she’s done before, and I knew that it was coming.
“But I was just trying to stay focused. I had match point. I had chances. I didn’t take them. Some of them she played well; some of them I played too passively.
“In the end I just tried to keep focusing, just keep grinding, keep hanging in there. And I finally made it at 6-5 for me, and that was a nice relief.”
In the third round she will play Tunisia’s One Jabeur, a player who had not won a main draw match at the tournament until this year, taking out both Johanna Konta, the No 12 seed, and Caroline Garcia.
“It feels great. The crowd is really supporting me out there and standing behind me and it’s amazing.” Wozniacki said.
“It’s a tournament where I have always had crowd support, so it just feels even more special because it’s even more now.’
“I feel just lucky to be out there and, you know, still playing on a high level.”
Despite being a former champion, Wozniacki had only reached the fourth round of the tournament once since 2014.
“I was really nervous going into my first round,” an emotional Wozniacki explained during her on-court interview.
“Today I actually felt pretty calm, but it quickly became 5-1, and I was thinking, ‘Hopefully I can be out here for another 30 minutes to try and take it all in!’
“After winning this match, which was a really tough one, it’s just so special to play in front of such an amazing crowd on one of my favourite courts.”
Wozniacki announced her plan to retire at the Happy Slam during the off-season, making each match she plays in Melbourne the last of her career.
In the first match of the night session on Rod Laver Arena, Serena Williams continued her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title on Wednesday, moving past Slovenian World No 70 Tamara Zidansek to reach the 3rd round at Melbourne Park.
Williams recorded the 87th Australian Open singles match-win of her storied career with a 6-2 6-3 dismissal of Zidansek, who tested her opponent in the second set but could not halt the American’s progress.
Zidansek was bidding for the first top-10 win of her career, in just her third encounter with a player from that ranking bracket.
Williams, now a perfect 6-0 this season after picking up her first title as a mother in Auckland earlier this month, next takes on No 27 seed Wang Qiang, who she beat in the US Open quarter-finals last September.
“It was a good match for me, she was a real good fighter and she didn’t just let me win,” Williams told compatriot Jim Courier in her post-match on-court interview.
“Everyone plays me like that though, so it’s nothing new. I was up 40-0 on both of her serves, so I was frustrated. I hit many errors and had to battle through my own internal problems.
“I knew I had to play better, I couldn’t keep making unforced errors like that. I knew I had to step up, or it was going to be a really long evening for me.”
A mother to two-year-old daughter Olympia, a businesswoman with a fashion company among other ventures, as well as a 23-time major champion, Williams was asked by Courier how she juggles it all.
“It’s not easy, some days are definitely harder than others, I’m running a full-time company and this morning I’m sending emails about our March designs.
“Being a mom is very special to me, it’s the best thing I’ve done. I’m really hands-on. I’m a little obsessed, but I love it, I love every aspect of it, it’s so fun,” she said.
The 38-year-old dominated in the first set but was slowed down slightly in the second, when the roof was closed because of rain, and the 70th-ranked Zidansek saved the first 7 break-point chances she faced.
“I knew I had to step up, otherwise it was going to be a really long evening for me,” Williams said.
During her post-match interview, a video of Williams performing a dance routine with Coco Gauff, fitness guru Shaun T and others, during their preseason training organised by her coach Patrick Mouratoglou was displayed on the big screen on Rod Laver Arena.
The dance ends with an impressive split from Williams.
“We had a lot of fun. We love to dance, oh gosh. Are they going to show the end?” laughed Williams as she watched along with the fans in the stands.
“Whenever I see Coco, we always still do our routine, we had like two days to rehearse it.
“We had winter training for tennis in Boca Raton, and my coach brought people from his academy. We wanted to bring fun to it, we had dance, we had tennis we had boxing. It was great fun.”
That pre-season training block seems to have done the trick because Williams is undefeated in 2020, and is raring to go.