How Caroline Wozniacki returned to tennis

Coco Gauff fired up after beating Caroline Wozniacki in 3 sets (0:38)

Coco Gauff hangs on to beat Caroline Wozniacki in three sets to advance to the quarterfinals at the US Open. (0:38)

After retiring from tennis more than three years ago, Caroline Wozniacki made her official return to the sport earlier this month, and her amazing US Open -- her first major since the 2020 Australian Open -- is over after a fourth-round loss to Coco Gauff.

The 33-year-old announced she would be making a comeback in an essay in Vogue earlier this summer. Wozniacki, who welcomed two children with husband David Lee during her time away from competition, said she began hitting again after her son was born in October 2022 and realized how much she missed the sport.

"It's hard to say why, or what changed, but when my dad [and coach, Piotr] saw me practice that day and said, 'It looks like you're enjoying it more,' that was exactly how I felt -- I was relaxed and having fun, and somehow that let me see everything more clearly," Wozniacki said.

Wozniacki has spent 71 weeks at No. 1 during her career and won 30 WTA titles, including the 2018 Australian Open. She is a two-time finalist at the US Open, most recently in 2014. In her Vogue essay, Wozniacki said she believed she was still more than capable of achieving greatness on tour.

"Can I win the US Open? I think so," she said. "Can I win the Australian Open? I think so. That's why I'm doing this. And I guess we'll see what happens."

Wozniacki has since stated she also hopes to compete at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and team up with fellow Danish player Holger Rune in the mixed doubles event. How has her journey back gone so far? Here's a timeline of her return, with her most recent action at the US Open on top:

US Open return

Sept. 3, 2023

NEW YORK -- Wozniacki's dream run came to a halt in front of a packed crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium in a three-set battle against Coco Gauff. After dropping the opener, Wozniacki stormed back to force the decider but ultimately didn't have enough left in the tank to defeat the world No. 6.

Still, even in the 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 loss, she impressed Gauff -- who had previously confessed how excited she was to get the chance to play her -- and the 19-year-old praised Wozniacki during her on-court interview after the match.

"She's back and it's like she's never left," Gauff said. "The level that she played today is really amazing. She's been an inspiration for me growing up and it's a little bit weird because I grew up watching Caroline. I remember watching her win the Australian Open when everybody was saying all sorts of things about her, so to be out here on the court with her today was an honor."

Having entered the tournament ranked No. 623, Wozniacki should improve to around No. 240 when the next rankings come out at the end of the US Open.

"I wanted to see with these three events that I came back and played this year, I wanted to see kind of where I was tennis-wise, where I was physically and everything else," Wozniacki said. "I think I've learned a lot from that. I think I'm exactly where I want to be."

Sept. 1, 2023

NEW YORK -- Wozniacki was handed her first set loss of the tournament against American Jennifer Brady during the day session in Arthur Ashe Stadium -- but she fought back.

At one point trailing 6-4, 2-0, Wozniacki won 12 of the next 14 games and ultimately secured the 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory to reach her first US Open fourth round since 2016.

"I think as a competitor and as an athlete you always want to win," Wozniacki said on the court after the match. "You go out there and you believe in yourself but to actually be here and playing in Arthur Ashe in front of all of the amazing people in here ... I said this after the last match, but I didn't think I was going to be here again. When I retired three years ago, when I had my two kids, I thought I would be only watching from the outside, but to be able to play here and now I've won two matches in here, what an honor this is."

Wozniacki will next play world No. 6 Coco Gauff, who is having a red-hot summer on the hard court. The two have never played each other before.

Aug. 30, 2023

NEW YORK -- Wozniacki played in front of an adoring crowd in the second night match on Arthur Ashe, defeating No. 11 seed Petra Kvitova in over a two-hour thriller, 7-5, 7-6 (5).

After clinching the victory on her third match point, Wozniacki threw up her hands in celebration, and her box -- which included her husband David Lee and her father and coach Piotr -- jumped to their feet. Moments later, during her on-court postmatch interview, ESPN's Rennae Stubbs asked Wozniacki if it was moments like these that made her want to come back. She didn't hesitate.

"Absolutely. Being out here in Arthur Ashe Stadium, night session, playing in front of a packed crowd, this couldn't be better. It's a dream come true. If you asked me three years ago, I would've said 'I'll never be back here playing on this court,' but to be back and beat the world No. 11 feels very, very special."

With the win, Wozniacki sets up a third-round clash against American Jennifer Brady, who also returned to competition this summer after a multi-year absence due to a series of injuries.

Aug. 28, 2023

NEW YORK -- Playing in her first match at a major since the 2020 Australian Open, Wozniacki defeated 19-year-old qualifier Tatiana Prozorova, 6-3, 6-2, in 91 minutes in front of a packed crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

"I mean it feels amazing to be back," Wozniacki said during her on-court interview after the match. "Obviously I was very nervous coming out here. I haven't been out here since 2019. A lot has happened since then. It just feels amazing to get another chance out here on this big court, playing a night session and get a win under my belt."

With the win, Wozniacki sets up what is already a much-hyped second-round clash against fellow major champion Kvitova, who was also victorious on Monday. The two have played 14 times on tour with Kvitova holding an 8-6 edge. Wozniacki won their last meeting at the 2018 WTA Finals and she sounded excited about the upcoming challenge.

"I know exactly what I need to do, I know where my game needs to be at to beat Petra," Wozniacki said late Monday night. "There's definitely a calmness to knowing that. At the same time I'm playing someone who obviously plays very well.

"Could I have had maybe a little bit of an easier draw? Probably. But at the same time I'm also a wild card. We could have met in the first round. At the same time I'm just out there to compete. I know myself, my competitiveness. I know if I'm playing my best tennis, then I believe that I can beat anyone in the draw."

Lead up to US Open

June 29, 2023

Wozniacki shared with the world that she would be coming back and playing the Canadian Open and the US Open. Both tournaments confirmed she received wild cards for entry as she no longer was ranked. It was later revealed she would also be playing the Western & Southern Open, also as a wild card.

Aug. 8, 2023

Playing to a packed crowd on Center Court in Montreal, Wozniacki officially kicked off her comeback at the Canadian Open. With giant letters spelling out "Bon retour Caro" hanging from the upper bowl, Wozniacki walked onto the court as "Sweet Caroline" blared over the loudspeaker.

After a few early moments of rust -- including asking the chair umpire for clarification on how long the on-court warmups lasted -- Wozniacki quickly discovered her form and earned a 6-2, 6-2 win over qualifier Kimberly Birrell.

During her news conference after the match, Wozniacki admitted she had felt some nerves initially but eventually was more comfortable.

"It's like riding a bike, basically," she said.

Aug. 9, 2023

Wozniacki took the court the following day for her second-round match against 2023 Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, but this time she was not victorious. Wozniacki's time in Montreal ended with a 6-2, 7-5 loss in 1 hour, 46 minutes. While disappointed by the defeat, Wozniacki said she took many positives from her time at the tournament.

"I think as a competitor you always want to win obviously, but at the end of the day if I look at this tournament, I'm proud of myself," she said. "I'm happy that I got to play two matches. I'm happy that I kind of know where I stand, what I can do moving forward.

"I think it's a great learning curve, and I'm happy that I know where I am, and I don't feel like I'm that far away from where I want to be."

Aug. 15, 2023

After initially being scheduled to open play at the Western & Southern Open against Elina Svitolina on Center Court the day before, Wozniacki was given a harsh reminder of how tough life on tour can be. After Svitolina withdrew with injury just hours before their scheduled match and was replaced by lucky loser Varvara Gracheva, the match was delayed and ultimately canceled for the day because of rain. Eventually, playing a day later than planned and on a different court than originally scheduled, Wozniacki struggled against her opponent and her strong backhand. Wozniacki was ultimately handed her second consecutive loss 6-4, 6-4.

Wozniacki couldn't hide her disappointment after the match but said she was going to focus her energy on the US Open.

"I still have about 10 days to prepare for the US Open," she told reporters. "There [are] quite a few things that I feel like I need to do better. I thought last week, I was pretty pleased about where I was. I think this week I don't feel like my timing is exactly where I want it to be, so I'm just going to go back and work hard."

Aug. 24, 2023

After Wozniacki spent the week in New York preparing for the tournament, including a practice session with world No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek, it was revealed she will be playing a yet-to-determined qualifier in the first round, and if she were to win that match, she could potentially face No. 11 seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round.