A tearful Caroline Wozniacki headed into retirement after defeat at the hands of Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, ending her Australian Open hopes and her 16-year career.
The Dane announced last month that the scene of her greatest triumph, when she broke her Grand Slam duck in 2018, would also be the stage for her professional farewell at the age of 29.
Wozniacki battled to an excellent win over fast-rising teenager Dayana Yastremska in the second round and surely had her sights set on a fourth-round clash with great friend Serena Williams.
But Tunisia’s Jabeur had other ideas and her 7-5 3-6 7-5 victory made her the first Arab woman to reach the fourth round at a major.
- Australian Open 2020: Men’s Draw
- Australian Open 2020: Women’s Draw
Wozniacki looked like she had turned things around when she won the second set and then recovered from 0-3 in the third but Jabeur had not read the script.
Wozniacki held serve once to stay in the match but on the second occasion she went behind and an ill-judged HawkEye challenge set up a match point.
A forehand over the baseline was the final act, and Wozniacki managed a joke through tears as she stepped up for a farewell interview.
“I think it was only fitting that my last match would be a three-setter, a grinder, and that I would finish my career with a forehand error,” she said of the stroke that has probably stopped her winning more major titles.
“Those are special memories that I’ll always cherish. It’s been a great ride. I really am happy, I’m ready for the next chapter and I’m really excited about what’s to come.”
Wozniacki was then joined on court by her family, with Dad Piotr hoisting her high in the air.
Ashleigh Barty came through a potential danger match with flying colours to keep alive Australia’s long wait for a home-grown champion.
The top seed faced Kazakh Elena Rybakina, who has soared up the rankings and won the Hobart International last weekend, but the Australian was in control virtually throughout in a 6-3 6-2 win.
Rybakina’s powerful game saw her break Barty’s serve twice at the start of the match but the local favourite soon managed to defuse the barrage of shots coming at her and wrapped things up in an hour and 18 minutes.