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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Caroline Wozniacki Is Getting Very Good at Comebacks


America likes to fancy itself the land of second probabilities. Present some humility. Work laborious. A brand new you, or maybe a greater model of the outdated you, is simply across the nook.

So maybe it’s becoming that comebacks have featured so prominently within the first days of the U.S. Open. Some have gone properly — Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina, Stan Wawrinka, Jennifer Brady. Others — Venus Williams, who suffered a gap evening drubbing — not a lot.

What binds them collectively although, is the seemingly irresistible pull of a sport and a life that so many gamers complain about however finally battle to say goodbye to, understanding that after the door locks utterly, because it does for everybody ultimately, there isn’t a strategy to unlock the pathway to the worldwide glamour, fame and cash of their former life.

“It’s the competitors,” mentioned Brady, 28, who’s rediscovering her type following two injury-plagued and mentally grueling years. “You simply can’t replicate it.”

That’s not all. On Thursday, there was the 38-year-old Wawrinka within the fading mild of Court docket 17, which is a type of tennis bullring, rolling again the years to a time earlier than foot surgical procedures appeared to spell the tip. He had simply dispatched Tomas Etcheverry, who’s 14 years his junior, in 4 gritty units, rallying the capability crowd of two,800 which had been screaming for him all afternoon. He stirred them like an orchestra conductor, urging every financial institution of stands to get louder to earn their post-match, memento ball.

“I just like the emotion I get from tennis,” Wawrinka mentioned later. “I additionally know the day I cease I’ll by no means discover these feelings anyplace.”

Friday afternoon’s third spherical delivered a tense, three-set battle between dueling comeback tales, as Wozniacki, 33, a former world No. 1 enjoying her first Grand Slam following a three-year, two-pregnancy retirement, outlasted Brady.

It was the second time in three days that Wozniacki had discovered the outdated magic in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the place she had her breakout run to the her first Grand Slam remaining 14 years in the past. On Wednesday, she topped an outdated rival and two-time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, in two tight units below the lights. On Friday, she got here again from a set down in opposition to Brady, an Australian Open finalist in 2021, profitable 12 of the ultimate 14 video games. She mentioned three years in the past she by no means thought she can be competing on this courtroom once more, a lot much less profitable.

“What an honor that is,” she mentioned Friday.

It’s becoming that Wawrinka and Wozniacki are clicking as soon as extra right here. That is the event the place Jimmy Connors went on his storied run to the semifinals in 1991 when he was 39. It’s the place, in 2009, Kim Clijsters, took a wild-card entry and in simply her second event again after a two-year break gained the singles title.

The enduring picture of that evening was Clijsters’s toddler daughter operating throughout the courtroom through the trophy ceremony. Her opponent in that remaining — Wozniacki.

If ever there was a participant that appeared performed for good, Wozniacki was it.

She had been enjoying nearly her total life. She had fulfilled her childhood desires of reaching the highest of the rankings and in 2018 profitable a Grand Slam event title on the Australian Open. She had gained $35 million in prize cash and earned tens of hundreds of thousands extra in endorsements.

When Wozniacki left the game in 2020, she had spent the earlier two years battling ​rheumatoid arthritis, a continual inflammatory illness that typically left her joints so swollen she struggled to get off the bed. She and her husband, David Lee, a retired N.B.A. participant, had been elevating their two youngsters in Florida, and Wozniacki had change into a mainstay of tennis tv commentary.

The Wozniackis have at all times been an intense sports activities household. Her father performed soccer for Denmark and Poland and her mom performed volleyball for Poland. For Wozniacki, a health freak, tennis was a occupation but in addition a cardio exercise. However she didn’t play for thus lengthy throughout her non permanent retirement that when the day arrived that she wished to hit some balls she had no thought the place her rackets had been.

The ball began coming off her strings as soundly as she felt it ever had.

“I noticed that, sure, I like enjoying tennis,” she mentioned. “I like to play the sport, I’m very keen about it, and I need to be one of the best I probably could be.”

Fairly quickly she was floating the concept of a comeback to her father, who has at all times been her coach, and her husband, who basically mentioned, ‘why not, you solely reside as soon as.’ Now right here she is in New York, with the youngsters in tow, taking her 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, to a park close to her lodge within the morning, and competing for one of many greatest titles within the sport within the afternoon and night. On off days she has been going to museums.

“Fairly cool that I get to reside my ardour and be a mother and type of put on many hats,” she mentioned Friday after yet one more win in a Grand Slam after so a few years of them.

There are, in fact, other ways to go a few comeback. Svitolina, who’s from Ukraine and like Wozniacki had a toddler final 12 months, tried to stay match via her being pregnant. Then she spent three months after childbirth transforming her recreation with a brand new coach, Raemon Sluiter.

She performed a sequence of smaller tournaments within the spring as she ready for top-level tennis and set few expectations for quick success, particularly given how a lot power she was spending elevating cash for aid efforts in Ukraine. In June, Svitolina made the quarterfinals of the French Open and in July she made the semifinals of Wimbledon. She and her husband, Gael Monfils, have left their daughter at residence in Europe.

Wozniacki, then again, took the go-big-or-go-home method, starting her comeback on the two massive U.S. Open tuneup tournaments in Montreal and outdoors Cincinnati, then enjoying the 12 months’s remaining Grand Slam with simply three post-comeback matches. She wrote in Vogue that she believed she may win the U.S. Open.

Finally, a lot of the finest tennis gamers come to grasp that they don’t seem to be merely athletes but in addition performers and entertainers. As soon as they make that leap, they start to attract power not simply from the act of competing but in addition the suggestions loop skilled by doing the factor they’ve performed from the time they had been very small, to the exclusion of almost another pursuit, in entrance of 1000’s of individuals.

It turns into a type of drug, and the repair isn’t obtainable from merely enjoying just a few pleasant units in a quiet park. Anybody can try this.

“I like enjoying in entrance of a giant crowd,” Wozniacki mentioned Friday. “I like enjoying on the massive stadiums. That’s thrilling to me. That’s why I’m nonetheless enjoying. It’s an ideal feeling.”


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