After three-and-a-half years away from tennis, former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki made a triumphant return to Hologic WTA Tour action at the Omnium Banque Nationale on Tuesday.
Playing her first match on tour since the 2020 Australian Open, Wozniacki of Denmark bested Australian qualifier Kimberly Birrell 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the WTA 1000 event in Montreal.
Wozniacki, who won the Omnium Banque Nationale title in Montreal in 2010, took 1 hour and 37 minutes to oust World No.115 Birrell and book a spot in the second round, in her 12th career appearance at the tournament.
"I'm happy," Wozniacki said, after her win. "A little tired. Just it was fun to be out there again playing on center court in front of a big crowd. I'm just thrilled that I could win my first match in three and a half years."
Wimbledon champ awaits: In her next match, Wozniacki will face the most recent Grand Slam champion, Marketa Vondrousova. No.9 seed Vondrousova defeated Mayar Sherif 6-4, 6-2 in the Czech's first match since she won her first major title at Wimbledon last month.
"Marketa has obviously been on fire," Wozniacki said. "Played incredibly well at Wimbledon. Got out of some tough situations there along the way, but then really kept her nerves cool in the finals.
"Obviously a tough opponent, a lefty. That's never easy to play a lefty with the ball going the other way. But, you know what, I have nothing to lose. I'm going to go out there and have fun regardless and see what happens."
Comeback kicks off: To be exact, it had been 1,293 days since Wozniacki's most recent match, a third-round loss to Ons Jabeur at the Down Under Grand Slam in 2020. Since then, Wozniacki has given birth to her two children Olivia and James.
"I'm just excited to be back and competing, and I think for me it's so special having my family here," Wozniacki said. "As a 33-year-old that has played on tour for many years, and doing it with my kids that now, especially the older one is starting to really understand and gets to really experience the world and different countries, I think it's so cool."
Wozniacki turned back the clock to collect an immediate win in her return, garnering her 177th career match-win at a WTA 1000 event. Since the WTA 1000 tier started in 2009, only two players have more match-wins at this level -- Victoria Azarenka (187) and Simona Halep (186).
"I didn't really know what to expect, to be honest," Wozniacki said. "You have all these things in your head that this is how you're supposed to be playing and you're supposed to be doing this and that, but to be honest, I had no idea what I was going to come up with when I was out on court because I just haven't played a real match in so long.
"It was all about not getting down on myself if I made a mistake and not get too excited when I hit a good shot. So it was just kind of evening out those emotions. I think everything taken into consideration, I'm very happy with how I played today and how I got through."
By the numbers: On Tuesday, Birrell had 16 winners to Wozniacki's 13, but the Australian had more than twice as many unforced errors than her opponent, as a vintage Wozniacki demonstrated her fearsome speed, defense and backhands throughout the clash.
Wozniacki won two-thirds of points returning the Birrell second serve (16 of 24), and she converted half of her 12 break points on the day.
If Wozniacki can go all the way to the title, she would become the third female player in the Open Era to win this event multiple times with over a decade between their earliest and most recent titles, along with Chris Evert (four titles between 1974 and 1985) and Serena Williams (three titles between 2001 and 2013).