MELBOURNE, Australia - The glittering career of former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki came to an end at the Australian Open on Friday with a third round defeat to Tunisia's Ons Jabeur.
World No.78 Jabeur, who had previously reached the third round at the French and US Opens in her career, advances to the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the first time in her career, thanks to a 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 victory that lasted just over two hours inside Melbourne Arena.
"I'm really happy, especially here at this Grand Slam -- usually, [here] I'd lose first round -- but today I'm really happy that I made it through to the fourth round," Jabeur said on-court after the match.
"I don't have much experience, so I was a little bit nervous, especially in the last set. She plays unbelievable and she runs really good."
Turning to Wozniacki, Jabeur, who revealed she was 'a little bit stressed' about the prospect of sending the Dane into retirement, added: "I'm really happy that I played you. You are such an inspiration for me and many players, and I'm lucky enough to have been on tour with you."
Congrats @CaroWozniacki on an amazing career. It was an honour to share the court with you today. Your fighting spirit has always inspired me and I wish you all the best in this next chapter of your life. You'll be missed but I'm sure we will see you around.— Ons Jabeur (@Ons_Jabeur) January 24, 2020
@australianopen 🙏 pic.twitter.com/ceKeJf11iP
Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open champion, was unable to hold on to the opener despite building a 3-0 lead, but nearly pulled off a comeback of her own from 3-0 down in the decider.
The Dane won three straight games to level at 3-3, but after holding serve to stay in the match in the 10th game, she was unable to repeat the feat in the 12th.
"It was like a marathon, actually. It was really scary. Like some forehand I'm supposed to not miss it, and I was a little bit stressed, so holding my hand a little bit," Jabeur added.
"I felt like there was a lot of opportunities to win, and make winners. She was obviously running everywhere and getting all the balls, so did not help. [She] made me take more risks, but I'm happy on the first set I came back and took the opportunity in the final set."
Ultimately, the Tunisian's aggressive mindset and willingness to take risks paid off over the course of two hours and seven minutes, whether it was off of her forehand groundstroke, deft dropshot from both wings, or first serve.
The 25-year-old struck 43 winners from all parts of the court, to Wozniacki's nine, and despite 60 unforced errors, came up with the right shots at the right time. The Tunisian served six aces, won over 70 percent of the overall points played behind her first serve, went 5-for-12 on break points.
"I just want to play my game," the Tunisian continued. "I know I had, even during the match, I know I had, like, more -- I was playing more, I was doing winners, and I was doing mistakes. I was actually doing the game, and she was ready there. And of course there was a lot of pressure on her, on me at the same time.
"She's a big player, and, I mean, I'm lucky enough to have played her already twice. Yeah, like I said in the interview at the end, she really inspired me."
"I'm always that person that even when I'm down a lot, I've always believed that I can come back and win," Wozniacki said after the match.
"I don't think it mattered for me so much what the score was. I think throughout the match, there was a couple of times where I was like, 'Shoot, this could be my last one.' It was just like, I don't want it to be the last one. I want to be out there fighting. I fought like my life depended on it. It is just what it is.
"I think the result today doesn't matter to me as much as the way that I fought, that I gave it everything. I wanted to be out there. I did everything. I think that shows how my career, throughout my career, that's what I'm known for."
Read more: WTA celebrates career of Caroline Wozniacki
Wozniacki topped the WTA rankings for 71 weeks overall as she was the standard-bearer for Danish women's tennis, and the Scandinavian region, for the better part of a decade.
After the match, the 29-year-old was honored with an on-court ceremony, where she was celebrated in front of a packed house and shown a tribute video with a collection of memories from her WTA peers.