Caroline Wozniacki’s career of consistency comes to an end as Dane chooses to retire on her own terms

One of the most consistent shows on the WTA circuit over the past decade, Danish former No 1 Caroline Wozniacki called time on her career last week, saying she would be leaving professional tennis after the Australian Open 2020. In the Instagram post through which she made the announcement, Wozniacki said she had achieved “everything [I] could ever dream of on the court.”

Indeed, the Australian Open has been the venue of the long-awaited Grand Slam title that had plagued the Danish star for so long. Wozniacki is 29, which might seem to many young for a retirement, particularly given the ages to which many of her own peers — and players on the ATP circuit — have been playing, but Wozniacki’s health struggles — particularly in the recent past, have not helped her. And with the Danish ace personally declaring she had reached peak satisfaction with her own career trajectory, perhaps it was best for her to retire on her own terms.

For Wozniacki, that 2018 Australian Open singles title came after several “so-near-yet-so-far” moments; she made the finals of the US Open in 2009, where she lost to a rather famous wildcard — Kim Clijsters. But that year, Wozniacki still became the first Dane, irrespective of gender, to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open Era.

 Caroline Wozniackis career of consistency comes to an end as Dane chooses to retire on her own terms

Caroline Wozniacki, of Denmark, returns a shot to Danielle Collins during the second round of the 2019 US Open. AP

And Caroline Wozniacki has been nothing if not consistent. Winning her first WTA title in 2008, she ascended to the top 5 in 2009, made her first Grand Slam final, and despite a couple of injuries and losses that threatened to derail the immense progress she had already made that year, finished well enough to move up to World No 3. Her win over Petra Kvitova at that year’s China Open handed her the number one ranking, but perhaps symbolically for Wozniacki herself, the Grand Slam titles that had been within touching distance continued to elude her; she became only the fifth tennis player ever to have hit the world no 1 ranking without winning a Major.

Where 2010 and 2011 were perhaps the most consistent years of Wozniacki’s career, the next two years saw a decline in her form — but even then, the Dane ended 2012 as the 10th ranked player in the world.

It is interesting to note that much of Wozniacki’s career over the last few years has seen major rises and small blips, owing in no small part due to seemingly minor-injuries that have piled up — an ankle here, a back injury there, that have thrown a spanner in the works for a player whose game and form have otherwise been steady. And this past year has not been particularly easy for Wozniacki either, who in 2018 was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes sufferers’ joints to become inflamed, stiff and cause them constant pain. For someone not only in a professional career but one playing at Wozniacki’s level, that diagnosis will likely have made things even more difficult considering she marked her return to No 1 in 2018 after a seven-year gap.

Where one might argue Wozniacki lacks in the big-hitting and the aggressive shotmaking that has held so many of her peers in good stead, and indeed, contributed to her own losses, she makes up for it in the stability of her game — and in her on-court demeanour.

Her return to nearer the top, and her subsequent Grand Slam success — did not come easy last year, either; Wozniacki was down two match points to Jana Fett in only the second round of that Slam, before she came back to eventually win the title. She had been within touching distance of the Australian Open title before, too, holding match points over Chinese former No 2 Li Na in 2011 before losing.

Caroline Wozniacki, lacking forehand aside, has been nothing short of a fighter in the best sense of the word. One gets a sense, perhaps, that the 29-year-old has done what she set out to do; wanting to check off certain boxes in her career — finishing as the year-end World No 1, winning the WTA Finals — in 2017, and finally, for her, in 2018, winning her first Grand Slam title.

Although Wozniacki has said in her Instagram post her retirement is not health-related, her rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis — which saw her withdraw from tournaments towards the end of 2018, will not have made things particularly easier. To drive home just how consistent the 29-year-old has been since her debut, 2019 marked her first-ever year since 2007 that Wozniacki has not won a single title.

Caroline Wozniacki pictured with husband David Lee at an NBA game between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. AP

Caroline Wozniacki pictured with husband David Lee at an NBA game between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. AP

But where Wozniacki’s professional career has taken a backseat with her diagnosis, her personal life has gone from strength to strength.

Having made no secret of her desire to start a family, Wozniacki, who married her partner, the basketball player David Lee in 2019, has said that it is “not goodbye” for her just yet. Indeed, with so many players coming back to play after motherhood, perhaps Wozniacki, too, will return to the sport — just as her best friend Serena Williams.

With more and more players returning to the circuit after having children, that is something Wozniacki herself could so choose. After all, her competitor in her first-ever Grand Slam final was a returning mother and a wildcard by the name of Kim Clijsters.

She may not have had the huge game of so many of her peers, but Caroline Wozniacki had another valuable skill — the right game, when it mattered most. As she steps away from a sporting career to focus on her personal life, Wozniacki gets to do something so many, in sport and outside it, do not — retire on her own terms.