Three years after retiring from professional tennis, former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki announced she would be returning to the sport in a first-person essay for Vogue on Thursday.
Wozniacki, 32, said she started hitting again after her second child was born in October, and it made her realize how much she missed the sport.
“It’s hard to say why, or what changed, but when my dad [and longtime coach, Piotr] saw me practice that day, and said, ‘It looks like you’re enjoying it more’ — that was exactly how I felt: I was relaxed and having fun, and somehow that let me see everything more clearly,” Wozniacki said.
Wozniacki stated she is targeting the Canadian Open in Montreal in August as her official return and then would play the US Open. She’s a two-time finalist at the event, most recently in 2014, when she lost to close friend Serena Williams. The USTA announced she will be receiving a wild card for entry to the year’s final major in a statement on Thursday.
Wozniacki spent 71 weeks at No. 1 during her career and won 30 titles, including the 2018 Australian Open and 2017 WTA Finals. She announced her impending retirement prior to the start of the 2020 season with the Australian Open being her final event. She ultimately lost in the third round in Melbourne to Ons Jabeur and was serenaded by the crowd with the singing of “Sweet Caroline,” as well as an on-court ceremony at the match’s end.
“I’ve accomplished everything I could ever dream of on the court,” Wozniacki wrote on Instagram when she announced her retirement. “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. In recent months, I’ve realized that there is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court.”
In the same post, she cited her desire to start a family with her husband, former NBA All-Star David Lee, and the couple have since welcomed two children — a daughter named Olivia in June 2021 and a son named James in October 2022. Wozniacki joins a growing list of mothers competing on the WTA Tour, including Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina and Taylor Townsend. Fellow former No. 1s Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka are both expected to return from maternity leave in 2024.
Since retiring, Wozniacki has worked as a commentator and analyst for ESPN and Tennis Channel. She participated in the Legends competition at the French Open earlier this month and collected both of her doubles matches. She was partnered in her second match with Kim Clijsters, another former No. 1 and mother who came out of retirement twice over the course of her career.
In 2018, Wozniacki announced she had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. In her initial retirement post, she said her decision was not based on her health.
But in her Vogue essay, she was candid about the debilitating pain she experienced as a result of the disease.
“My joints had swollen up so painfully because my immune system was in overdrive attacking my body,” Wozniacki told Vogue. “And though I stayed on tour and gutted it out, all I wanted to do was sleep. (At one point, after a match, I slept for 43 out of 48 hours.)
“My rheumatologist and I came up with a plan: I’d take extraordinary care to walk, run, swim — anything, really — just to keep my joints moving; I’d hydrate myself relentlessly and eat a very particular kind of anti-inflammatory diet. It was complicated and precise, but effective — until I reached a point where the entire process became too exhausting: keeping tabs on every single detail of what I ate, how much water I’d been drinking; putting in all the hours, every single day, on the court and in the gym and monitoring my recovery and traveling. That’s when I knew I needed a break.”
She said her rheumatoid arthritis symptoms have improved since taking the time away, but she has been “paying careful attention” to how her body reacts to the increase in training.
Wozniacki stated she was unsure of how long her comeback would last, but said she is planning on playing the Australian Open at the start of the 2024 season and then will “take it from there.” She said she was also hoping to play in the Olympics in Paris next summer. While she admitted there were some uncertainties and said she didn’t want to make any “bold predictions,” she sounded more than confident in her ability as she restarts her career.
“Am I nervous? Not really,” Wozniacki said. “I’m coming back to something I love. Yes, I’ll be nervous before a match; I’m okay with that. I’m great with that. Can I win the US Open? I think so. Can I win the Australian Open? I think so. That’s why I’m doing this. And I guess we’ll see what happens.”