JUST ACROSS THE channel from Miami Beach, Fisher Island is a honey pot of wealth. A 216-acre island accessible only by ferry and a fat bank account, the area boasts the highest per capita income in the United States. It's the sort of place where you see a model "walking" her standard poodle by golf cart. Where peacocks roam the grounds as living, squawking ornaments, house keys are unnecessary and everyone waves when they pass each other, intoxicated by sea air and their shared good fortune.
Wozniacki, currently the leading earner on the WTA tour, moved to the island five years ago, living and training there (when not at her rental in Monaco) on courts that, as of March 2018, bear her name. Her parents followed suit, buying their own place walking distance from hers.
During practice, Wozniacki hits every ball full force, taking few breaks, her gaze fixated across the net or on her father, who critiques from center court. Anna runs to the baseline, offers a towel. Wozniacki waves her off. Behind the fence, her fiancé, former NBA All-Star David Lee, watches from the shade.
"She makes that shot look so easy," Lee says. "It's unbelievably hard." He swallows a long swig of water in the 90-degree heat. "I've played with her two times. She doesn't like to hit with me."
Lee, 35, met Wozniacki through mutual friends a couple of years ago.
"Obviously she's a beautiful girl, but the way she handles herself is what really attracted me," he says. "I've never seen the discipline and focus she has out of anybody I've ever played with in the NBA. I didn't have the focus that she has."
Lee and Wozniacki got engaged in November 2017 after she won the WTA Finals in Singapore, Lee calling proposing "a no-brainer." In addition to their airy condo on Fisher, the pair share property in Los Angeles and New York. They're trying to decide where they want to settle and raise a family. Wozniacki wants four seasons. Lee prefers warmth. Schools are top of mind.
Their current place is tidy and sparsely decorated. Some generic silver objects. A handful of family photos. A wide, white leather sectional. A glass dining table with a vase of roses, the rubber band still looped snug around the stems, sitting on top. Beside the flowers, a toddler-sized Miami Heat tracksuit, a gift for Wozniacki's nephew. By the front door, a poster displays an Elizabeth Edwards quote: "She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails."
Wozniacki's practice and gym workout over, she showers for a late lunch. Barely five minutes elapse before she emerges flush, dressed in leggings and a green Adidas T-shirt, hair pulled in a wet ponytail.
"Welcome to my world," Lee says of her astonishing grooming speed. "She always ends up sitting around waiting for me!"
"I played with the boys as a kid," Wozniacki explains. "If I took too long, I would get left behind."
At home, Lee and Wozniacki don't talk tennis. They say they've figured out a healthy balance. They know Wozniacki is a public figure and exposure is good for the brand, if bad for the soul. So they thread the needle.
"Ninety-nine percent of what we do is very, very low-key and not glamorous whatsoever," Lee says.
Reminded that the couple attended the Vanity Fair Oscar party earlier this year, Lee says, "Yeah, but that was after Caroline did two workouts that day. Then we flew out the next morning and she trained that day too."
The quiet domesticity is a departure from Wozniacki's early 20s, when she was viewed as a bit of a jet-setter, the tabloids never more feverishly on her tail than when she was engaged in 2014 to golfer Rory McIlroy.
The two A-list athletes were paparazzi catnip, feeding the fire by goofing and vamping in public -- like the time Wozniacki colored her hair neon pink for the Par-3 contest ahead of the 2014 Masters, at McIlroy's request. "I wanted it to match the [course] azaleas," he explained. Their relationship imploded in May 2014 when McIlroy unceremoniously dumped Wozniacki via phone after they'd mailed out their wedding invites. The messy split was dissected in the international media. Tennis icon Chris Evert theorized in USA Today that Wozniacki's game was better after the breakup. Three months later, she was the runner-up in the U.S. Open. "She's playing with more fearlessness and with more boldness," Evert argued. "She is so comfortable in her own skin." (About a year after the breakup, Wozniacki modeled in the 2015 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- the first of several appearances.)
The on-blast jilting brought new math to Wozniacki, prompting her to recalibrate her relationship with her image, something she is still doing.
"I definitely feel scrutinized," she says flatly. As such, these days she's pulling back a bit, being selective about social media, public appearances, "trying to live a down-to-earth life" -- to, after decades in the public eye, "choose how much I want to give."
Wozniacki starts a load of laundry as she and Lee lightheartedly bicker about the next day's schedule. The two head to her parents' condo, a two-minute golf-cart ride away. Wozniacki takes the wheel, driving so enthusiastically her phone is thrown to the pavement. Lee hops out to retrieve it, then checks for cracks in the screen before they speed on. The couple arrives, and the family Pomeranian, Bruno, greets them at the door, manically barking. Wozniacki scoops him up, cuddles him like a stuffed animal.
Anna plunks homemade chicken stir-fry and a pitcher of water on the table, "I hope you like," she says, and the family takes their seats, except for Piotr, who is lounging on a nearby couch, keenly watching Manchester City vs. Liverpool on the flat-screen. Wozniacki gobbles two heaping plates of lunch, hurriedly pushing the food onto her fork with her knife. Lee mentions that she speaks Polish, Danish, English, some Russian.
"Sometimes I will correct her English, and she'll flash me a look, and I'll be like, yeah, I don't know s---," he says, laughing.
"We came to Denmark when we were 23, 24 years old," says Anna of her and Piotr's defection from communist Poland in 1985. "The borders were closed. You couldn't get your passport. You were only allowed outside from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m."
Piotr and Anna saw a chance to escape when there was interest in him joining a soccer team in Denmark. The couple left with no chance of coming home. "Big decision, big decision," Piotr says softly.
A few years after the Polish border reopened in 1989, the family thought about going back. But the kids had started school. And, says Anna, "we felt better in Denmark than in Poland."
They feel the same about their new life in Florida, the privileged existence they've carved from tireless devotion to their children, coaching (son Patrik is a professional soccer player in Denmark), supporting, pouring faith into their dreams, as improbable as those dreams might have seemed from the start.
"We did this together, the whole family," Anna says, fanning an arm in front of her chest. "From nothing, we came to this position and I can only be proud of it."
"I see it this way," Piotr explains. "Miami, people here, they respect my family. I am proud as a father." He references the tennis courts, the brown and gold plaque literally set in stone and adorned with the Wozniacki name. "These are small things. But maybe," his eyes twinkle, a grin spreading across his face, "this is big thing."
Wozniacki considers her path to moments like these, emphasizes that fame was never something she chased. (Excellence, yes.) But talent exposes, magnetizes, draws public interest like ants to spilled honey, especially if that honey is a 5-foot-10 blonde.
Now she's finding better ways to use her visibility beyond pink hair and bikini shoots.
"As a young player, I felt like I couldn't speak my mind without being looked at like, 'Who does she think she is?'" Wozniacki says.
She credits best friend Serena Williams with spurring her nascent outspokenness.
"It's important for me to let every woman know they can have a voice and a loud voice," Williams says. "Caro found that voice and was so ready to use it."
Last year, Wozniacki publicly questioned why Maria Sharapova got a wild-card entry at the U.S. Open only a few months after serving a 15-month suspension for banned drug use, labeling Sharapova's inclusion and elevation to Center Court "a questionable thing to do." This March, Wozniacki called out the Miami Open crowd on social media, saying fans went beyond cheering for local favorite Monica Puig, rooting against Wozniacki to the point of taunting her family in the stands, including Lee's 10-year-old niece and nephew. Wozniacki has since threatened to boycott the 2019 tournament for what she says was an inadequate response by event officials.
"The fans were s---ty, and I spoke up because I don't think that's a great example to set," she says. As for Sharapova, "We should show young players if you choose that path, it has consequences. I'm very passionate about drug use because I've spent so many years fighting fair. I got drug-tested this morning, actually. At 6 a.m."
"Becoming a champion so young and keeping success for so long is rare," says Williams, who met Wozniacki after her sister Venus invited a then-16-year-old Wozniacki to play doubles with her in Doha. Since their introduction, Wozniacki and Serena Williams have been tight, vacationing together, attending Mariah Carey concerts, Rangers games. Sharing, "too many fun times," Williams says.
"Caro has always been a special person, warm, loving, humble," Williams says of her friend. She added that Wozniacki, who plummeted to No. 74 in the WTA rankings in 2016 after battling a string of injuries, taught her that quitting is "not an option."
"Sixteen months ago, she was having a few hard breaks, but she kept going. Caro teaches me that whatever you do, and no matter how far you fall, do it with grace and also get back up with grace."
Williams says Wozniacki hasn't changed over the years, Wozniacki echoing the same of Williams, even as the latter's iconic sphere of influence has ballooned during their friendship.
"When you're close to someone, you don't see them as a famous person, you see them as the person they are," Wozniacki explains, acknowledging that she has witnessed firsthand how those in Williams' orbit freak out in her presence. "It's a double-edged sword," she says of the fevered mania, emphasizing that a Williams level of limelight is not on her to-do list. "I like walking in my sweats through the supermarket. I just want to be myself."
Wozniacki's current bent toward authenticity comes with a hard-won intolerance for BS. She loathes fakery, the backstabbing she's observed and experienced over her career.
"I'm at this point where if I'm going to spend time with somebody, I want them to know who I am. If they like it? Awesome. If they don't? That's not really my problem anymore." It's a wisdom she has acquired with age. "If you make everybody happy, you're doing something wrong."
Wozniacki mentions that day eight years ago when she was first crowned best in the world. The startling, unbidden emptiness that followed.
"It was hard. I was like, well, what is it really about? What actually drives me? And I realized it's the ups and downs, the early hours, the late nights, everything. That's what's satisfying. Obviously you reach your goal and it's great, but it's not going to change your life. The journey does that."
Wozniacki grins. Her face bright, unperturbed.
Lunch over, Wozniacki makes plans to leave the island for a gel manicure, her one nod to vanity. She has long, thin fingers, deep nail beds.
"Your hands are one of the first things people see," she explains, miming shaking hands.
She reflects on her career. How far she's come. No longer a wonder kid. Now occupied with having kids of her own.
"The moment I'm not hungry anymore, it's time to stop," she declares, saying the thought of retirement doesn't frighten her. Nor does the risk of obscurity.
"That's the beauty of being an athlete," she says. "As soon as you're done, other people come up after you. There's another amazing player, or a new young blonde. Whatever it is. You are forgotten. And I think that's great."
A few minutes later, Wozniacki pulls onto the ferry in her white Land Rover. The water choppy enough to lean the vehicle to and fro as it cruises toward Miami. Unruffled, she waves through the passenger window, nose pressed close to the glass. Sunlight glints on the surface, her smile reflecting like a hall of mirrors.
Allison Glock has been a writer with ESPN for more than 15 years. The author of seven books, her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, GQ, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Outside, Men's Journal and many other publications. She has also written and produced for television and is currently developing a series with A&E.