Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki made a triumphant comeback in her return to competition after a layoff of more than three years at the WTA Montreal Open on Tuesday.
The 33-year-old Danish star defeated 115th-ranked Australian qualifier Kimberly Birrell 6-2, 6-2 in her comeback match at the hardcourt event, a tune-up for the US Open, which starts on August 28 in New York.
“I’m happy,” Wozniacki said. “A little tired. Just it was fun to be out there again playing on center court in front of a big crowd. I’m just thrilled that I could win my first match in 3 1/2 years.”
Her second-round opponent will be reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, the Czech world number 10 who ousted Egypt’s 33rd-ranked Mayar Sherif 6-4, 6-2.
Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open champion, retired after a third-round loss at the 2020 Australian Open. She gave birth to two children and became a television commentator, her WTA playing days seemingly complete.
But Wozniacki announced in June she was making a comeback and received wildcard entries into Montreal and next week’s Cincinnati tournament as stepping-stones to the US Open, where she was runner-up in 2009 and 2014.
Before her retirement, Wozniacki won 30 titles and 635 career matches. She spent 71 weeks atop the rankings.
Now she has her first match victory as a mother, having given birth to son James and daughter Olivia in the 1,293 days since being ousted by Ons Jabeur at Melbourne in 2020.
“That’s pretty crazy,” she said. “I was just looking at the clock actually. My kids are napping right now which is awesome. So I’m going to catch them after I do a little bit of treatment and food and stuff.
“That’s the good part of playing early. I still have the afternoon with them.”
Wozniacki dropped the opening game but rallied to capture the final four games of the opening set, the last on a Birrell double fault after 43 minutes.
“I was definitely a little rusty,” Wozniacki said.
Wozniacki broke for a 4-2 edge in the second set, held for a 5-2 lead and broke again on a backhand winner to secure the victory after 97 minutes, raising her arms skyward with a smile of delight at her achievement.
– ‘Excited to be back’ –
“I’m just excited to be back and competing, and I think for me it’s so special having my family here,” Wozniacki said. “As a 33-year-old that has played on tour for many years, and doing it with my kids that now, especially the older one is starting to really understand and gets to really experience the world and different countries, I think it’s so cool.”
Lifting her comeback from practice courts to matches was a major step for Wozniacki.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Wozniacki said. “You have all these things in your head that this is how you’re supposed to be playing and you’re supposed to be doing this and that, but to be honest, I had no idea what I was going to come up with when I was out on court because I just haven’t played a real match in so long.
“It was all about not getting down on myself if I made a mistake and not get too excited when I hit a good shot. So it was just kind of evening out those emotions. I think everything taken into consideration, I’m very happy with how I played today and how I got through.”