Wednesday, June 19, 2019 | ePaper
Emotional Wozniacki launches Australian Open defence
Caroline Wozniacki fought back tears after launching her Australian Open defence with a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win over Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium on Monday.
The third seed won her maiden Slam at Melbourne Park last year but has since been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating auto-immune disease that has threatened to derail her career.
The Dane, who is bidding to become the first woman to defend the title since Victoria Azarenka in 2013, showed no outward sign of the illness as she eased past world number 52 Van Uytvanck in straight sets.
But her emotions came bubbling to the surface after the win as she reflected on returning to the venue where she made her career breakthrough after more than a decade of trying.
"It's such a special feeling, I love playing back here," she said.
"Last year I had some special memories and just to be able to be back out here on Rod Laver Arena is something extremely special and emotional.
"Now I'm going to start crying and I never cry."
The 31-year-old has proved she can still compete despite he illness by winning in Beijing in October but her Melbourne campaign will test whether she can still cope with the gruelling two-week slog of a Grand Slam.
Wozniacki appeared to move freely despite energy-sapping conditions, engaging in long rallies with her dogged opponent who she described before the match as "tricky".