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THE TIME-WARP OF WTA TENNIS



Last week, Caroline Wozniacki announced that she would be returning to the WTA Tour following several years away.


The Dane announced her return in a special article written in Vogue, in which she admitted she had “no idea” how long her break from tennis would last, having had two children during her time away.


The inspiration to return to tennis struck Wozniacki during a brief hitting session with her father and long-time coach Piotr, during which they each observed the high level at which Wozniacki was playing.


The former world number one has already received wildcards to participate in Montreal and at the US Open later this year, before returning to the site of her greatest triumph at the 2024 Australian Open.


Wozniacki is the latest on a growing list of returnees to the WTA tour, which has become a significant feature of women’s tennis in recent years and appears destined to become even more common in the future.


Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina, Barbora Strycova, Taylor Townsend and Tatjana Maria have all returned to professional tennis after giving birth in recent years, building on the legacy of Kim Clijsters over a decade ago, which itself took inspiration from the likes of Evonne Goolagong Cawley in the more distant past.


The result of these returns is the creation of a special dynamic in women’s tennis where generations collide, as well as the continued defiance of expectations regarding what women can achieve in elite sport following pregnancy.


Women’s tennis benefits from these elevated narratives, with an ever-changing cast of characters ensuring the tour is constantly refreshed.


When the likes of Williams and Azarenka temporarily depart, a void is left which is inevitably filled by a new crop of superstars, whose ascent creates greater even greater intrigue when the old guard returns.


Consider next year’s Australian Open, where alongside the likes of Wozniacki and Svitolina, Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber have also signalled their intent to return to the event, having taken time away from the sport during their own pregnancies.


The women’s field promises to be stacked with former grand slam champions and world number ones, with each undoubtedly capable of claiming a major scalp or two throughout the tournament.


Further, the individuals who return have often spoken about the renewed perspective they have returning to tennis following childbirth and how this helps them maintain a healthier relationship with the sport.


In the post-match interview after her second-round win at Wimbledon just a few days ago, Svitolina highlighted her renewed perspective after having a child.


“[Having my daughter] changed a lot for me,” Svitolina said.


“I enjoy so much now being on the court.”


“I know that my family is there supporting me; I’m really just enjoying every moment I get to play at such an amazing event.”


Perhaps returning to tennis following pregnancy is not only becoming increasingly viable, but even desirable considering its potential benefits for the individuals involved.


Ultimately, tennis fans stand to benefit from this trend.


Whilst Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina have staked their claims as some of the best players in the world, the prospect of Wozniacki, Osaka and Kerber returning to challenge their positions is an undeniably exciting one.


Add in the ever-present Venus Williams and perhaps even a return for Simona Halep (pending the outcome of her doping case), and one finds themselves in a kind of time-warp scenario with a range of different eras blending into one.


Instability and the consequent unpredictability of outcomes could be viewed as negative qualities in many contexts.


Yet in this situation, the sheer number of mouth-watering matchups and storylines which will surely eventuate is something to behold.


For tennis fans, embracing the chaotic nature of the sport is surely the route to maximising enjoyment, with no shortage of opportunities to get excited about the coming years.

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