MELBOURNE, Australia - New experiences on tour are rare for World No.3 Caroline Wozniacki, but for the first time in her career she returns to Melbourne Park to defend a major title at the Australian Open. The Dane opens her title defense on Monday against Belgium's Alison Van Uytvanck.
"I'm just excited," Wozniacki told reporters during her pre-tournament press conference. "I think it's a positive to be here as the defending champion. I'm just taking it as a nice, fun challenge.
"I can't believe it's already been a year. It doesn't feel like it to me."
A lot can change in a year. This time last year, Wozniacki came into the Australian Open still chasing her maiden major title. Two weeks later it was mission accomplished, and the Dane snagged the No.1 ranking for the first time in six years. She went on to add two more titles in Eastbourne and Beijing to bring her career tally to 30.
What few knew as her season drew to a close was that the indefatigable Dane had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease that can cause swelling and pain in the joints. Wozniacki says she's still learning how to manage her training regime, but after a restful off-season, she's ready to go.
"I think you just always try to figure out what's working and what's not, then you listen to the body, you try a few different things," Wozniacki said. "For me, it's just all the time making sure I get good massaging, good treatments, ice baths, stretching, do everything even more thoroughly than maybe in the past. Then you just listen extra. If you're not feeling good one day, then you take it easier.
"But other than that, I feel like it's really individual, I think from person-to-person, how you react to different things. I'm just trying to learn my body, getting to know my body even better."
A year on from her title-run, the tennis landscape is slowly starting to change. Wozniacki's good friend Agnieszka Radwanska announced her retirement over the off-season, while Andy Murray announced this would be his final season on the ATP Tour.
"I don't think [Aga's retirement] surprised me as much as it surprised everyone else," Wozniacki said. "Obviously I've been talking to her a lot even last year. Then she obviously, when she made the decision, she let me know before she let everyone else know.
"It's kind of weird because I grew up playing with her. We played juniors together. I think we played the first time against each other when I was eight and she was nine, something like that. It's kind of crazy that all of a sudden she's not on tour any more.
"She doesn't seem to be missing it right now. She's having a blast. She's enjoying her life. I think she's skiing right now. Yeah, I think everyone I feel like knows when it's time and when it's right. She was fortunate enough that she could kind of stop on her terms, which I think is much different than Andy.
"I think it's sad, I'm sad on behalf of Andy because Andy is so fun for me to watch. I think he's entertaining. He's such a great athlete. He stood up for us, too. I really appreciate what he's done for women's tennis.
"I talked to him a little bit yesterday actually, ran into him at the hotel. It's never fun when it's not on your terms. He loves the game. You can tell how passionate he is about it.
"But I guess you can't do anything about it. That's sports sometimes. You can't help when your body says it's enough."