Former Australian Open champion and mother-of-two Caroline Wozniacki says she can't wait to make a comeback at her "favourite slam" after being confirmed as one of the women's wildcards at Melbourne Park. The Danish former World No.1, veteran James Duckworth and Aussie women's No.1 Kim Birrell are among the first recipients of wildcard entries to the tournament announced by Tennis Australia.
Wozniacki retired from the women's circuit in 2020, having claimed her one and only major singles title at the 2018 Australian Open. The Danish superstar has since giving birth to two children, with the 33-year-old making a memorable comeback to tennis in June, which included a stunning run to the fourth round of the US Open.
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Wozniacki's run at Flushing Meadows was ultimately ended by eventual champion Coco Gauff, but the Dane's level of tennis and supreme fitness proved she's still a force to be reckoned with. Following her announcement as one of the Australian Open wildcards for 2024, Wozniacki said she couldn't wait to bring her family with her down under after revealing the Melbourne Park slam held a special place in her heart.
"I have so many wonderful memories of Melbourne, and of course winning the Australian Open is an all-time career highlight," Wozniacki said. "Coming back to my favourite slam as a new mum - and bringing my two kids - will be a huge thrill.
"The whole family is so excited. I'm truly grateful to everyone for the wildcard and having the opportunity to compete again at the AO in January." Wozniacki battles rheumatoid arthritis and beat the Australian women's No.1 Birrell in her long-awaited return to tennis in August.
New mum Naomi Osaka also returns to Aus Open
The Dane is not the only mum making her return to Melbourne Park in 2024, with four-time major winner Naomi Osaka also recently revealing that she would be competing in the Brisbane International in January, ahead of another tilt at the Australian Open title. Osaka - who has won two titles at Melbourne Park previously - gave birth to her daughter Shai in July.
Osaka has plummeted in the rankings during her absence from the sport vowed to compete in a busier schedule in 2024 in an effort to make up for missing 2023. "It's definitely way more tournaments than I used to play, so I think some people will be happy with that," Osaka said about her 2024 schedule.
"It's because I realised that I don't know how the beginning of the year is going to go for me. I don't know the level of play, and I think that I have to kind of ease into it. So at the very least, I'm going to set myself up for a very good end of the year."
Aussie wildcards excited to compete in home slam
As for Australian Open wildcard Birrell, the Aussie women's No.1 will be hoping the injuries that have plagued her career to date are a thing of the past as she looks to go on a memorable run at Melbourne Park. "It's a huge honour to receive a main-draw wildcard," Birrell said, having most past injured compatriots Daria Saville and Ajla Tomljanovic as the nation's top female player.
"There's no better feeling as an Australian than playing at Melbourne Park at our home grand slam." On the men's side, Duckworth takes his wildcard spot after missing out on direct qualification for the grand slam by 10 spots.
The Aussie hope reached as high as No.46 in the rankings last year but has dropped to 116 in the world rankings in 2023. Duckworth received the welcome news of his wildcard reprieve just four days after being married in Queensland.
"I'm very excited to be back playing the Australian Open again. It's my favourite tournament of the year," Duckworth said. "I have so many great memories playing in Melbourne. I felt like I was starting to gain some momentum towards the end of the year and I'm looking forward to building on that for the Australian summer." The Australian Open gets underway on January 14 and will feature a first-ever Sunday start in 2024.
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