Wozniacki extends career with Yastremska scalp

andrew hendrie /

Caroline Wozniacki has delayed retirement by at least another match after overcoming rising star Dayana Yastremska in straight sets at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Wozniacki, who will hang up the racquet following the Australian Open, produced a trademark fighting performance, coming back from a double break down in both sets – 1-5 in the first and 0-3 in the second – to register a 7-5 7-5 victory over Yastremska, who was coming off a run to the final in Adelaide last week.

It was a fascinating contrast in styles, with Yastremska opting for blinding power and Wozniacki attempting to absorb the pace and work the angles. In the end it was Wozniacki’s consistency that prevailed as she finished with an even 15 winners to unforced errors, compared to Yastremska firing 36 winners to a whopping 47 unforced errors.

“I was really nervous going into my first round,” an emotional Wozniacki said on court immediately after the match.

“Today I actually felt pretty calm, but it quickly became 5-1, and I was thinking, ‘Hopefully I can be out here for another 30 minutes to try and take it all in!’ After winning this match, which was a really tough one, it’s just so special to play in front of such an amazing crowd on one of my favourite courts.”

The match was not without a bit of controversy, with Yastremska taking a medical timeout after losing her momentum in the second set and while trailing 4-5. The teenager haas a history of dubious medial timeouts when her opponents are in winning positions, and Wozniacki said she knew what to expect coming into the clash, saying it didn’t phase as she closed out the contest on her fourth match point.

“Obviously she tried to break my rhythm,” Wozniacki said in press. “And at 5-4 I don’t think there is anything wrong. She was running just fine. That’s a trick that she’s done before, and I knew it was coming.

But I was just trying to stay focused. I had match point. I had chances. I didn’t take them. Some of them she played well, some of them I played too passively. In the end I just tried to keep focusing and I finally made it at 6-5 – that was a nice relief.”

Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open, will face Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the third round, and if she wins that, she could potentially face close friend and her Auckland doubles partner Serena Williams in the Round of 16.

Elsewhere, a blockbuster Friday night showdown was set up between Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff after the pair prevailed in their respective second round encounters on Wednesday.

Defending champion Osaka bounced back from a break deficit in the second set to conquer Zheng Saisai of China 6-2 6-4, but 15-year-old Gauff was made to work much harder, recovering from 0-3 down in the deciding set to outlast Sorana Cirstea 4-6 6-3 7-5.

The pair met in the third round of the U.S. Open last year, with Osaka dominating the match in straight sets – leading to one of the more heartwarming moments of 2019 when the Japanese comforted an emotional Gauff and invited her to speak to the fans in the post-match on-court interview.

There were also straight set wins for last year’s runner-up Petra Kvitova (7-5 7-5 over Paula Badosa) and World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty (6-1 6-4) over Polana Hercog earlier on Wednesday.