By Rozanna Latiff
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Caroline Wozniacki battled “mixed emotions” as she stepped on court at the Australian Open on Monday to begin the final tournament of her career but the former world No. 1 kept her composure to deliver a 6-1 6-3 first-round win over Kristie Ahn.
The Dane’s speedy footwork and trademark defensive skills were on full display as she breezed through the first set in just 24 minutes on Melbourne Arena.
She faced a tougher time in the second set after a marathon first game on Ahn’s serve, which saw the 92nd-ranked American save eight break points before Wozniacki finally prevailed.
She went on to hold the next two games and never seemed in danger of losing even when Ahn managed to claw a break back in the fourth game.
Ahn, facing three match points at 5-3 down, saved one but hit a double fault on the second, securing the victory for Wozniacki after an hour and 25 minutes.
“It’s always tricky … There’s a lot of just emotions but I tried to keep them in check, and I thought I did that very well today,” the 29-year-old, who won her only Grand Slam trophy in 2018 at Melbourne Park, told reporters.
Wozniacki will next face the winner of the match between 21st-ranked Dayana Yastremska and Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan.
Wozniacki, who has earned some $35 million in prize money, is credited with putting Denmark on the tennis map after reaching the number one ranking for the first time in 2010.
Reflecting on her achievements, Wozniacki said she hoped to inspire the next generation of Danish players, noting that she herself had no peers while she was climbing up the ranks.
“I do think that having someone there before you would probably have been a little easier, because it would have showed the way and that it’s possible.”
“I always believed in myself, and I always believed that there are no limits to what you can achieve no matter where you’re from.”
Seven-times Australian Open champion Serena Williams described Wozniacki’s retirement as “a great loss to women’s tennis” and credited the Dane with making the locker room a friendlier place.
“She’s a great personality and a great spirit,” Williams said.
“She carried that on the court and off the court.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)