Tennis

How Wozniacki went from woes to wow

Dane recalls how she achieved Grand Slam breakthrough after being written off

Caroline Wozniacki said "nobody knows" how much hard work and sheer guts she had to put in before realising her Grand Slam dream.

Twelve years, 67 weeks at world No. 1, 149 Grand Slam matches, three Major finals and countless disappointments were all made worthwhile when she was crowned Australian Open champion last Saturday.

An epic 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-4 win against Simona Halep in a near-three hour match in brutal heat and humidity also elevated her back to the top of the world rankings after a six-year hiatus, the longest gap in history between spells at the top.

"Honestly, nobody knows how much work, dedication you put into it," she said with the winner's Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy by her side.

Following Wozniacki's second Slam final in New York in 2014, where she lost to Serena Williams, her fitness and form went on the slide.

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Many observers believed she was finished and would retire, but the determined Dane, who will regain the No. 1 spot today, had other ideas.

All I could tell myself was... ‘If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen’. Caroline Wozniacki, on how she felt when she slid down the rankings

"All I could tell myself was, 'You know what, you've given it everything you have. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen'."

She went into the US Open in 2016 at a lowly 74th in the world, but with her desire undiminished.

"I think just I'd been through a lot of injuries at that point," the 27-year-old reflected.

"Then you start losing to some players whom you're not really thinking you should lose to. It's frustrating. I was, like, hoping eventually it's going to turn around."

Unseeded, she reached the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows that year, losing to eventual champion Angelique Kerber, and it kickstarted her climb back up the rankings.

WTA titles at Tokyo and Hong Kong followed in the next two months and she ended the 2016 season back in the top 20.

"Since then, I've been playing really consistent and really well," she said.

Last year, the resurgence continued and she reached six finals, eventually getting over the finish line by retaining her Pan-Pacific title in Tokyo in September.

Her biggest win followed at the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore two months later - that was until last Saturday in Melbourne.

"Being here tonight as a Grand Slam champion, Australian Open champion, it's very special," she said.

Wozniacki became the first Dane to win a Grand Slam and moved behind only Jana Novotna (45), Marion Bartoli (47) and Flavia Pennetta (49) for the most Major appearances before claiming one.

It is 12 years since Wozniacki first came to notice, winning junior Wimbledon.

A first Grand Slam final defeat came against Kim Clijsters in New York in 2009 and on Oct 11, 2010, she became world No. 1 for the first time.

Even if she hadn't won last Saturday, Wozniacki said she would be able to hold her head high.

"To be honest with you, regardless, I think I've had an incredible career. The end of the day, I think a lot of people would like to be in my position," she said.

"Obviously adding a Grand Slam to my CV is what caps it off."

She revealed she had received a royal seal of approval for the victory.

"I've heard from the (Danish) royal family - they've congratulated me, they were very thrilled for me," she said as she paraded her new trophy in Melbourne's botanical gardens yesterday morning.

"It's still pretty surreal. It's been a crazy last 10 hours or so. I think I'm overwhelmed, I had an hour-and-a-half sleep last night." - AFP