After an evening of exemplary consistency, discipline and courage, Caroline Wozniacki got the match point against her old rival Petra Kvitova, so close to the first big win of her return. But Wozniacki wasn’t quite ready for her moment. On her second match point, Wozniacki looked incredibly nervous as she hit a poor backhand return and Kvitova quickly slammed the door with her service game.
For many other players, such a missed opportunity could have proved fatal. But the former No1 has built an excellent career thanks to her superior mental toughness and she proved it again at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Wozniacki shook off her disappointment, made few mistakes and remained focused on her goal as she secured a mighty victory by defeating Kvitova 7-5, 7-6 (5) and advancing to the third round of the US Open .
“It feels great to beat such a great player and champion like Petra,” said Wozniacki. “Obviously from the start of the game I knew I had a chance to win and I believe in myself. At the same time, she was obviously having a great year. She is 11 years old and loves to play on hard courts.
“I knew it was going to be very difficult and I had to play my best tennis. I’m just so thrilled to have the opportunity to play at Arthur Ashe Stadium. What an honor it is to play an evening session in front of this amazing crowd.”
Her win over Kvitova, the No. 11 seed, is also the first time Wozniacki has won consecutive games since playing her first game after retirement in Montreal earlier this month. She won her opening match there against Kimberly Birrell of Australia before losing to Marketa Vondrousova and then performed poorly at the Cinncinnati Open where she was sidelined by Varvara Gracheva. She arrived in New York and was dying to get back on her feet.
While Wozniacki clinched her long-awaited Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, New York was always her place. It was the scene of the Dane’s first Grand Slam final in 2009, her second in 2014 and a rousing run to the semifinals in 2016 while she was 74th after a year marred by injuries and poor form. It was also the city where she successfully ran her first marathon in 2014 after that final and a grueling 11-month season. If there were one place that could kickstart her comeback, it would be New York.
“I’ve generally felt very comfortable here in New York,” she said. “Since I got here it’s just the dishes and everything else that has made me feel good.”
In a nostalgic match between two of the previous generation’s formative champions, both 33 years old, Wozniacki delivered a classic, expert performance. She was extremely consistent and barely conceded, making just 13 unforced errors and defending with flawless depth, particularly with the backhand. She served better and better as the game progressed, always being an asset at the peak of her powers, winning 83% of first serve points in the second set.
“It’s always difficult to play Caro, even if she hasn’t played for a few years. I didn’t feel like I was away,” said Kvitova, who, like many players in New York, was ailing when she took the field.
In crucial moments, Wozniacki challenged Kvitova to punch through her defense consistently. There have been many times in their 14-year rivalry where Kvitova, conversely one of the greatest attacking players of her time, has been able to overpower Wozniacki but this time she failed to do so. As the lackluster Kvitova’s unforced errors piled up, Wozniacki’s ice neutralized her fire.
“If you’d asked me three years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever play one of those courts again at the US Open, especially a night session,” Wozniacki said. “It just feels incredible to be out there and win a match like that.”
In the third round, Wozniacki meets another player who is on the way to a comeback, American Jennifer Brady. Brady reached the semifinals of the 2020 US Open and the final of the 2021 Australian Open before being sidelined for two years until this summer due to a series of injuries. On Thursday night, Brady won her first straight WTA-level match on her return, defeating No. 24 seed Magda Linette 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 to advance to a third-round match that was played with almost certainly will be the focus again.