Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki’s glittering tennis career ended in tears at the Australian Open on Friday (January 23) when she was dumped out by lower-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.
The 29-year-old Danish, who announced in December that this would be her final tournament, lost 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 in the third round.
The unseeded player brings the curtain down on a career that saw her win 30 WTA titles, with her sole Grand Slam triumph coming in 2018 at Melbourne Park.
“Only fitting that my last match was a three-setter, a grinder, and I finished my career with a forehand error. Those are the things I’ve been working on my whole career. Guess this is just how it was meant to be,” joked Wozniacki, as she choked back tears.
Wozniacki, who made her professional debut in 2005, was given a rapturous reception by the Melbourne Arena crowd and was embraced by Jabeur.
“I’ve had unbelievable experiences on the court, amazing fans and support I’ve had my from family, especially my Dad, who has coached me all these years,” said Wozniacki, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, which causes fatigue and joint pain.
She has said that had nothing to do with her decision to leave tennis, wanting to start a family with a husband and former National Basketball Association star David Lee.
The couple embraced on the court and she was held aloft triumphantly by her father Piotr.
“I usually don’t cry. I have special memories that I will cherish, it’s been a great ride,” said Wozniacki, now ranked 36 in the world and began playing tennis aged seven.
“But I am ready for the next chapter, ready for what’s to come.” She finished 2010 and 2011 as world number one and ascended to the top ranking again in 2018, the same year she finally won her maiden Grand Slam.
The 78th-ranked Tunisian Jabeur plays Wang Qiang of China or American great Serena Williams — Wozniacki’s close friend — in the fourth round.
“Caroline has been such an inspiration for me and many players,” said Jabeur.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams’ bid to win a 24th Grand Slam title has been falling short with losses in finals. At this Grand Slam, she didn’t make it nearly that far.
Serving only so-so, failing to convert all but one of her break chances and missing groundstrokes with alarming regularity, Williams stunningly exited in the third round at Melbourne Park, beaten 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5 by 27th-seeded Wang Qiang of China.
Williams was broken in the final game, fittingly ending things with a backhand into the net. That was her 27th unforced error on the backhand side, part of a total of 56 miscues. Wang made only 20.
Williams owns seven trophies from the year’s first major championship and this was her earliest defeat there since also bowing out in the third round all the way back in 2006.
Here is just one measure of how unexpected this result was: The only other time these two women faced each other came at the U.S. Open last September — the only Slam quarterfinal appearance of Wang’s career — and Williams needed all of 44 minutes to dominate her way to a 6-1, 6-0 victory. The total points were 50 to 15.
Wang quickly surpassed those game and point totals Friday, thanks in large part to nearly flawless play in the first set.
She saved all four break points she faced in that set, accumulated 10 winners and made just five unforced errors. Wang picked up the lone break she needed at love with an easy forehand putaway winner that made it 5-4.
Soon enough, Williams was sailing a backhand return long to cede the set. Wang quickly went up in the second, too, and already was ahead by a break at 4-2 when she was a point away from earning another.
But Williams — so tough at the toughest moments for so many years — steadied herself there to hold and get within 4-3. There was still work to do, though, and when Wang served for the victory at 5-4 in the second, Williams came through.
She was 0 for 5 on breakpoints until then but the sixth time was the charm. On the point of the match, with both players slugging away from the baseline, it was Williams who did what it took to take it, smacking a cross-court forehand winner out of Wang’s reach on the 24th stroke.
Williams raised both arms and looked at her guest box in the stands, where her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, and husband, Alexis Ohanian, rose to their feet to celebrate. All that did was prolong things, though. Eventually, Williams’ comeback fell short.
On Friday, India’s campaign ended with the ouster of Divij Sharan and his New Zealand partner Artem Sitak from the men’s doubles competition after going down in straight sets to Bruno Soares and Mate Pavic.
Sharan and Sitak lost to the Brazilian-Croat pair 6-7 3-6 in a second-round match that lasted one hour and 17 minutes.
She had also pulled out from the mixed doubles event to protect her calf from a strain.
Bopanna is the only Indian left in the fray now. The 39-year-old will partner Ukraine’s Nadiia Kichenok in the mixed doubles event.
The duo will take on France’s Nicolas Mahut and Zhang Shai of China in the first round on Saturday.
(With inputs from agencies)