CHAMP FIGHTING FIT
Wozniacki says she’s ready to defend title despite health issues
TENNIS: Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki is confident her game is in strong shape to defend her crown at Melbourne Park after a shock health diagnosis last year.
The heartwarming story of last summer when she won her maiden grand slam crown, Wozniacki revealed at the WTA finals late last year that she had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
While Wozniacki said the auto-immune condition had not forced her to make any changes to her game, she has had to become smarter listening to her body during training and recovery.
But after recharging during the offseason, the No.3 seed said she was ready to attack her title defence in the opening grand slam of the year.
“All I can say is that I feel good. I feel like I’m hitting the ball well. So ... I’m happy with that,” Wozniacki said.
“I think you just always try to figure out what’s working and what’s not, then you listen to the body, you try a few different things.
“For me, it’s just all the time making sure I get good massaging, good treatments, ice baths, stretching, do everything even more thoroughly than maybe in the past.
“Then you just listen extra. If you’re not feeling good one day, then you take it easier.
“I’m just trying to learn my body, getting to know my body even better. That’s really it.”
In reflection, Wozniacki believed she had been suffering from the condition for “quite a while”.
“I probably just thought I’ve just overtrained, overdone it a little bit,” she said.
“So it wasn’t until I really had a big flare-up that I really was like, ‘Okay, there’s something not quite right’.”
Wozniacki broke through to claim her first grand slam title last year – at her 43rd major event – after defeating Simona Halep in a classic three-set final at Melbourne Park.
The Dane said it was a great feeling to be back as the defending champion, adding the emotions of her title win flooded back when she practised on centre court for the first time.
“I think it’s a positive to be here as the defending champion. I’m just taking it as a nice, fun challenge,” Wozniacki said. “I can’t believe it’s already been a year.
“It doesn’t feel like it to me. But, yeah, it’s great to be back. My first practice was on Rod Laver, and it was just nice. I felt comfortable straightaway when I hit balls on that court. It was just a good feeling.
“Then, you know, you see your photos all over the place, which is cool. So, yeah, it’s definitely great to be back.”
Wozniacki spent the off-season holidaying in the Maldives, Europe and taking in a Liverpool game at Anfield to refresh her mind and body for the 2019 season.
“I took quite a bit of time for myself, just to relax and enjoy,” she said.
Wozniacki will take on Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck in the first round tonight.
ON TRACK: Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in action during a practice session on Margaret Court Arena.