The Dane has been struggling to get healthy for a month, but looked good in her win on Friday at Miami.
One of Caroline Wozniacki‘s greatest seasons ended with what may prove to be her greatest challenge as a player in 2018. The Dane won her first major and reclaimed the WTA’s No.1 ranking last year, but by the end of the season her career was in jeopardy as she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Wozniacki has been positive about things, but admittedly was in a state of shock when she got the news. “In the beginning, it was a shock,” Wozniacki said last year at Singapore. “Just, you feel like you’re the fittest athlete out there—or that’s in my head, that’s what I’m known for—and all of a sudden you have this to work with.”
But rather than dwell on the difficulties Wozniacki—much in the same fashion that Venus Williams has become a poster woman for what is possible for people with Sjogren's syndrome—has set her sights on being an inspiration for those afflicted with the autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and affect mobility.
Wozniacki found out the news officially after last year’s U.S. Open and since then has played a relatively full schedule. But this winter she fell ill and had not played since the Australian Open, where she lost in the third round to Maria Sharapova, when she arrived at Indian Wells. She lost in California in her first match to Ekaterina Alexandrova but in Miami she got off on the right foot with a 6-4 6-4 win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Friday.
“I feel like it's definitely not been the greatest start to the year health-wise for me,” Wozniacki told reporters. “I'm just really thankful I can be out there and play and compete. All I can do right now is just try and get the matches under my belt, try to play better.
A straight sets win for @CaroWozniacki!
— WTA (@WTA) March 22, 2019
Wozniacki will next face Monica Niculescu of Romania in third-round action. She feels like she’s making progress with her game and hopes to take advantage of a favorable draw—Niculescu stunned Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza on Friday and Wozniacki owns a 9-0 record against her.
“Finally the last week or so, I really feel like I'm starting to hit the ball well in practice,” Wozniacki said. “Hopefully that's going to transfer into a match and it's just going to get better.”
The Dane has had a rough go of it lately, but she’s eager to keep battling.
“It's hard when you're in bed most of the time through Doha, Dubai,” she said. “I expect a lot out of myself. Going to play Indian Wells and basically not having practiced for a month, I still wanted to play well. I thought I played pretty decent compared to how much I'd been able to practice. I was proud of my fight.
“I just have to keep putting myself out there and I have to keep just doing my best. That's really all I can ask of myself right now. Hopefully tomorrow is going to be better. That's all I can do.