After a four-year break, ex-world No.1 back to play her ‘favourite slam’ as an arthritic mum of two

Caroline Wozniacki will play at the Australian Open for the first time in four years next month after scoring a main-draw wildcard.

The 2018 Melbourne Park champion and former world No.1 announced her comeback in June, after not playing since her third-round loss at the 2020 Australian Open.

after a four-year break, ex-world no.1 back to play her ‘favourite slam’ as an arthritic mum of two

A tearful Caroline Wozniacki after a third-round loss at the 2020 Australian Open sent her into retirement.

Wozniacki’s retirement was supposed to be final but after having two children with her ex-NBA player husband, David Lee, she began training again and decided – with her family’s encouragement – to have a second crack at the professional tour.

“I have so many wonderful memories of Melbourne, and, of course, winning the Australian Open is an all-time career highlight,” the now 33-year-old said.

after a four-year break, ex-world no.1 back to play her ‘favourite slam’ as an arthritic mum of two

Kim Birrell will play at next month’s Australian Open.

“Coming back to my favourite slam as a new mum – and bringing my two kids – will be a huge thrill. The whole family is so excited. I’m truly grateful to everyone for the wildcard and having the opportunity to compete again at the AO in January. I can’t wait to get back and see all my fans in Australia.”

Wozniacki, who manages rheumatoid arthritis, beat Australia’s Kim Birrell in her return match in Montreal in August, but it was her stunning round-of-16 showing at the US Open that proved she could still be a force at the top of the women’s game.

The Dane defeated world No.11 and dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 2021 Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady during that New York run and finished the year at No.242 in the rankings.

The other AO wildcard recipients so far are locals Birrell, Olivia Gadecki, Taylah Preston, Marc Polmans, James Duckworth and Adam Walton.

Birrell, 25, made her top-100 debut this year and is Australia’s second-ranked player, behind the resurgent Arina Rodionova, after fighting back from a serious elbow injury that required surgery.

“It’s a huge honour to receive a main-draw wildcard,” Birrell said.

after a four-year break, ex-world no.1 back to play her ‘favourite slam’ as an arthritic mum of two

Taylah Preston will make her Australian Open debut in 2024.

“There’s no better feeling as an Australian than playing at Melbourne Park, at our home grand slam. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and hope I can make everyone proud during the summer of tennis.”

Gadecki, who reached the second round at this year’s AO and is within striking distance of the top 100, and Preston are arguably the country’s best two female prospects.

Preston, an 18-year-old from Perth, was a top-10 junior and is already ranked No. 202 – with a bullet – on the WTA Tour, including winning four titles on the ITF circuit this year.

“Coming back to my favourite slam as a new mum – and bringing my two kids – will be a huge thrill. The whole family is so excited. I’m truly grateful to everyone for the wildcard and having the opportunity to compete again at the AO.”

Caroline Wozniacki

It will be her first main-draw appearance at her home grand slam after capturing her biggest title to date in Brisbane late last month.

“I’ve dreamed of playing the Australian Open since I started playing tennis, so to be given this opportunity is amazing, and I am extremely grateful and excited,” Preston said.

World No.116 Duckworth, who married his long-time partner Madison last Friday, will contest the Australian Open for an 11th time, bidding to beat his best effort of reaching the second round four times.

after a four-year break, ex-world no.1 back to play her ‘favourite slam’ as an arthritic mum of two

James Duckworth will contest the Australian Open main draw for an 11th time.

“I’m very excited to be back playing the Australian Open again – it’s my favourite tournament of the year,” Duckworth said.

“I have so many great memories playing in Melbourne. I felt like I was starting to gain some momentum towards the end of the year, and I’m looking forward to building on that for the Australian summer.”

Polmans, 26, made the second round at the 2020 Australian Open and is set to play the event for the fourth time next month.

The world No.150 has not contested a grand slam main draw since qualifying and winning a round at Wimbledon in 2021.

“After being off the tour for most of 2022 [due to an ankle injury that eventually required surgery]; I have pushed really hard to get back on track in 2023, so this wildcard into the Aus Open is the perfect start for 2024,” Polmans said.

It will be Walton’s AO main-draw debut after a strong stint in US college tennis before climbing almost 250 spots this year to be ranked No. 178.

Meanwhile, ATP and WTA tournaments will again be available on a major streaming service, with Prime Video launching a partnership, to start next month, with tennis rights-holder beIN Sports. Kayo Sports cut ties with beIN mid-year, leaving fans of the sport with limited options to watch.

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