Angelique Kerber
Angelique Kerber says the return of some mums adds an interesting story line to the Australian Open. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Open’s champion mums returning to the fray

Anna Harrington January 12, 2024

Caroline Wozniacki is back in Melbourne, with two kids and a belief she can still challenge for the Australian Open title.

The 2018 champion has returned to Melbourne Park for the first time since coming out of retirement last year.

Wozniacki retired in 2020, gave birth to daughter Olivia in February 2021 and son James in 2022.

She is one of three former champions, alongside Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka, returning to the fray after giving birth, while 19th seed Elina Svitolina has also returned.

Caroline Wozniacki
 An emotional Caroline Wozniacki farewelled the tour at the 2020 Australian Open but now returns. Image by Scott Barbour/AAP PHOTOS 

Ahead of facing 20th seed Magda Linette, 33-year-old wildcard Wozniacki was adamant she could still compete with the best.

“Anytime I step on a court I believe I can win the match, no matter who the opponent is across the net,” she said on Friday.

“I think I’m playing well. My body feels pretty good. Again, it’s a long way to go. 

“I’m just going to focus on my first-round opponent and kind of go from there. That’s always kind of been my mindset.”

Woznacki travels with Olivia and James everywhere and believes that allows her to strike the ideal balance.

“It’s a lot of fun to be able to share these memories with them, even though they’re still pretty small,” she said.

“It’s hard. It feels like you have two full-time jobs, basically. 

“Finding that balance and being able to do both, I know there’s thousands and thousands of women out there that have full-time jobs and are also moms, but it’s hard.

“Sometimes I pat myself on the back, ‘you’re doing good, we’re okay’. 

“Some days it’s survival; some days we’re thriving. We’re getting through one day at a time and the kids are happy.”

In contrast, Osaka has travelled to Melbourne without daughter Shai, born in July last year.

“It’s definitely been really hard,” two-time champion Osaka said.

Naomi Osaka
 Naomi Osaka is missing daughter Shai while in Australia for the Open. Image by Zain Mohammed/AAP PHOTOS 

“She’s learning things while I’m gone. I’m hoping she doesn’t learn how to crawl before I come back … I think it might be a little inevitable.

“I’m definitely sad, but I feel like it’s a selfish sad because I want her to be here. 

“But I think for her health and like her whole environment is at home – you know what I mean? I don’t want to put her out of that while she’s still so young.”

Osaka starts her campaign against 16th seed Caroline Garcia while 2016 champion Kerber will play 2022 finalist Danielle Collins first-up.

Close friends Wozniacki and Kerber hit together on Friday.

The German is cautious on her expectations in her first slam since giving birth to daughter Liana last February.

“It is great to see moms coming back. I’m one of them. Especially now I think it’s also really interesting for the fans, for the people outside, to see us playing again, how the comebacks will go,” Kerber said.

“Also for us, it is completely different mindset because, of course, we are not really the important person right now in our lives, there is someone else.”