Lucky loser Varvara Gracheva took out Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday in the opening round of the Western & Southern Open.
Gracheva, 23, lost in qualifying to Cristina Bucsa but stepped in when Elina Svitolina withdrew with a foot injury. Ranked No. 45, Gracheva is a formidable player. This was her 33rd match-win of the season.
Wozniacki had nine break opportunities on Garcheva's serve but failed to convert any.
It was only her third match back after a three-plus-year sabbatical for Wozniacki, now 33 years old.
Eighteen years ago, she played in Mason, Ohio, her first Hologic WTA Tour tournament.
“A couple of days after my 15th birthday, I played Patty Schnyder, who was Top 10 in the world,” Wozniacki told reporters earlier this week at the Western & Southern Open. “Which obviously was not a very easy first round with her lefty spins and everything else.
“As you can imagine, that didn’t go too well.”
Wozniacki lost 6-3, 6-0.
Despite the loss Tuesday, Wozniacki has made more appearances in Cincinnati (11) than any other woman, going back to 2005.
After she lost that first match to Schnyder, she told herself, “I have some things to work on and we’ll be back and I’ll play better.”
And then she added earlier this week in a session with reporters, “Which I did.”
Indeed, Wozniacki went on to a glorious career, featuring the No.1 ranking, 30 titles (including the 2018 Australian Open) and more than $35 million in prize money. Satisfied with her accomplishments, weary of the grind and pushed by a continuing bout with rheumatoid arthritis, Wozniacki stepped away after the 2020 Australian Open and didn’t hit a ball for two years.
Last week in Montreal, after three years and seven months away from the game, Wozniacki -- now a mother of two -- returned. She won her first match over qualifier Kimberly Birrell but fell to Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in the second round.
Wozniacki still has speed and footwork to get most balls back, but Gracheva’s shot -- particularly the backhand -- was a tad too heavy for her Tuesday. Wozniacki was broken in her second service game, and Gracheva made it stand up. Wozniacki fought off two set points, but not the third, when she couldn’t get Gracheva’s serve in play.
The second set was more of the same, as Gracheva broke Wozniacki in the opening game and continuously applied pressure. Wozniacki had break points in the fourth and sixth games but couldn’t convert.