NEW YORK — Caroline Wozniacki‘s comeback to tennis and the US Open rolled Friday with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over American Jennifer Brady, another player making a return to the game after a yearslong absence.
The 33-year-old from Denmark raised her fists and glanced over to her husband in the stands when she closed out the match to move into the round of 16 at Flushing Meadows in just her third tournament back after 3½ years in retirement.
“To actually be here at Arthur Ashe Stadium with all of you supporting me is a dream come true,” she said in her postmatch interview. “What an honor this is.”
“The energy today definitely helped me. I felt you guys,” said Gauff, a 19-year-old from Florida. “I played every point my hardest.”
The 2022 French Open runner-up heard plenty of loud support from the crowd as she turned things around and won for the 14th time in her past 15 matches, all on hard courts.
That stretch includes the two biggest titles of Gauff’s career and made the sixth-seeded American one of the players considered a real contender at Flushing Meadows, where she got to the quarterfinals last year.
Wozniacki, who has never faced Gauff in her career, said she won’t start thinking about that match until after she goes home and celebrates with her 2-year-old daughter, Olivia, and 10-month old son, James.
The former World No. 1 and 2018 Australian Open champion left the sport in early 2020 to start a family, and later spent time working as a TV analyst. Now ranked 623rd, she needed a wild card to get into the US Open main draw and says she still has what it takes to make a deep run.
In a later match, Elena Rybakina became the highest-seeded woman eliminated when the No. 4 seed and 2022 Wimbledon champion fell to No. 30 Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4. Cirstea, who reached the last 16 at the U.S. Open for the first time, advanced to face No. 15 Belinda Bencic on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Brady, the 2021 Australian Open finalist, is making her own return to the game after two years away from the tour because of injuries, including a fracture in her right knee and a tear in her left foot.
Wozniacki, a two-time US Open finalist, dropped the first set and trailed 2-0 in the second before winning 12 of the final 14 games to take the match. It will be her first trip to the second week of a major since the 2018 French Open and the first time making the second week at the US Open since her semifinal run in 2016.
Having traded early breaks, the opening set was decided when Wozniacki, serving at 4-5 and trying to extend the set, suddenly found herself in a 0-40 hole and took out her frustration on her racket by repeatedly smashing it onto the court.
Going down a break in the second set to trail 2-0, Wozniacki appeared in deep trouble but dug in to easily win the second set and race to 5-0 lead in the third.
Swiatek, the defending champion from Poland, has dropped only nine games so far in the tournament — the fewest to this point since Serena Williams (8) in 2013, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Swiatek has handed her opponents 20 6-0 sets on the WTA tour this year, the third-most in a WTA Tour season behind only Williams (25 in 2013) and herself (22 in 2022) since the start of 2000.
“I didn’t like the fact I was kind of winning against my best friend,” Swiatek told the crowd in Louis Armstrong Stadium afterward. “Playing her is like playing a sister. … I don’t have many friends, but she’s my best friend.”
Swiatek dropped only five points on serve in the match and did not face a break point in the match.
It was the 56th match win this season for Swiatek, which is tops among players on both the WTA and ATP tours, according to ESPN Stats & Information. She next faces the winner of the match between 20th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko and American Bernarda Pera.
Muchova equaled her best showing at Flushing Meadows by pushing the serve-and-volleying Townsend off the net and onto the baseline. The 132nd-ranked Townsend won just 23 of 70 baseline points and had 39 unforced errors.
Muchova came into the US Open with a career-high ranking and momentum after reaching the final of this month’s tune-up event in Cincinnati, losing to American Coco Gauff in straight sets.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.