Three years away from tennis on the WTA tour can make anyone anxious. Playing in her first match since 2020, Caroline Wozniacki started her tennis comeback with a triumphant win over Kimberly Birrell 6-2, 6-2, in the first round of the National Bank Canadian Open in Montreal on Tuesday.
“It feels great,” Wozniacki said on court after the win. “It’s my first match back in over three years. Definitely a little rusty, but what an amazing place to come back and play my first match. I love playing here in Montreal.”
The former world No. 1 and 2018 Australian Open champion told the world she would be returning to tennis in a first-person essay for Vogue. Wozniacki began hitting again after her second child was born in October and realized how much she missed playing.
Playing on Center Court to a huge crowd that was very supportive of her return. Big letters spelling out “Bon retour Caro” hanging from the upper part of the stadium. Wozniacki walked out onto the court as “Sweet Caroline” played on the loudspeaker.
Before the match even got underway there were signs of rust. She asked the chair umpire to clarify the length of time for the warmup. “Is there a four-minute warmup now?” she asked.
Wozniacki admitted she “definitely felt a little rusty” in her first match back. It was still great to return in such a decisive way. Wozniacki understandably had the jitters at the beginning of the match. Once the match began, Wozniacki, who had received a wild card for entry, looked more at ease.
After being broken in the first game, Wozniacki won the next three games and took firm control. She ultimately needed 1 hour and 37 minutes to clinch the victory against Birrell.
The windy conditions in the morning and afternoon made serving quite tricky. Five of the first six games were breaks, with Wozniacki’s only hold of serve giving her the advantage. She closed the opening set in 43 minutes.
But it didn’t take long for Wozniacki to wake up as the Dane claimed back-to-back breaks in the second and fourth games to reverse the deficit and take a 3-1 lead. In the fifth game, Birrell got the break back and cut the deficit to 3-2.
Nevertheless, squandering a break didn’t affect Wozniacki. She broke Birrell again in the sixth and eighth games to clinch the first set. After easily claiming the first set, Wozniacki missed out on two break points in the second game of the second set, but also saved a break point in the following game.
Birrell had 16 winners to Wozniacki’s 13, but the Australian had more than twice as many unforced errors than her opponent, as a vintage Wozniacki demonstrated her fearsome speed, defense and backhands throughout the clash.
Wozniacki is now one of several mothers currently competing on the WTA Tour, including Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina and Taylor Townsend. Having played the first match on Center Court, Wozniacki told the crowd that her children were napping at match’s end and she was happy to be able to have the rest of the afternoon to spend with them.
Wozniacki is scheduled to also play in next week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, as well as the US Open, where she has been a two-time finalist. Wozniacki seems confident in her chances to do well at this year’s final Grand Slam and beyond.
“Can I win the US Open? I think so,” she said. “Can I win the Australian Open? I think so. That’s why I’m doing this. And I guess we’ll see what happens.”
“I didn’t really know what to expect, to be honest,” Wozniacki said. “You have all these things in your head that this is how you’re supposed to be playing… 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.”
Wozniacki will face the reigning Wimbledon champion, No. 9 seed Marketa Vondrousova, in her next match.
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Featured Image courtesy of National Bank Open
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