After battling an ankle injury for much of 2016, Danish tennis icon Caroline Wozniacki heads to the All England Club this week feeling fresh ... and determined. The 12-year WTA tour veteran, 26, spoke to Morty Ain about her training, her drive and what it took to get her body healthy again.
I was always told that there's no chance that a girl from Denmark can become a world-class tennis player. We've never had any women in the top 30. Every time I would say, "I want to be No. 1 in the world," people would just laugh at me. But I'll find a way. I don't take no for an answer.
I don't have as much power in my groundstroke as some of the other girls, but I'm fast and I know that I can last for a long time out there. My fitness is something I pride myself on. I think that's definitely something that I win quite a few matches on.
I've won a lot of matches from behind. It's not easy to close out a match, and I'm just always there, no matter what the score is. They feel the pressure. They know I'm going to slowly get myself back into the game.
Last year was rough on me. I've never really been injured before, for longer periods of time, and last year was just one little thing after the next. It made me realize that sometimes you need to listen to your body and let it heal. When you've been 12 years on [the WTA] tour, your body just keeps taking a beating and it's going to break down on you. I think the main thing for me is keeping on top of the small injuries and making sure that when I'm back on the court, every time I'm at 100 percent.
The worst pain I had was last spring. I had my ankle injury [during a practice on April 7, 2016] and broke two ligaments. My foot kind of went out of its socket. I was trying to slide on a clay court at full speed, and it just got stuck. I was actually wearing a brace, and the next day the doctor told me if I hadn't been, my bone would probably have been sticking out of my foot. It was excruciating.
I've played through a lot of things. I've played through broken toes and stuff. Many times you don't say anything; you just keep going.
I'm a sore loser. So is everybody else in my family. If I lose to anyone in my family in any game, we will not talk for a couple of days.
My brother stopped playing tennis after the first time I beat him. He was so mad, he smashed two rackets. I think I was leading in the set, and he smashed one racket. Then when he lost the last point of that set, he smashed the other one. He's like, "I'm done. I lost to a girl. Not only is she four years younger, she's my sister." We still talk about it to this day.
I think the most impressive thing I've done was to run the New York City Marathon in under three and a half hours. It was on my bucket list. Until Mile 21, I was fine. This is easy, I'm going to run another one. But at Mile 21, I completely hit the wall. I saw a milkshake place on the right and was like, "Can we just stop and have a milkshake?" And then [my two pacers] just started talking about milkshakes, and because they kept talking to me, it pushed me through that mile, mile and a half where I was struggling. It was the toughest thing I've ever done physically in my life.
I have the medal at home. That's the only trophy I have out in my house. My parents have all my tennis trophies. I just have that marathon medal.
Serena and I and one of my friends went to a New York Rangers game the day before the marathon. I'm supposed to be carb loading, but they were serving a lot of seafood and things that I didn't really like. So I just had a bucket of popcorn. That was my dinner the night before.
I used to be a great swimmer. Back in the day I had to choose between swimming and tennis. The only sport I'm really bad at -- like, really bad at -- is basketball. I don't have the right technique. It looks awful.
My boxing training gets really physical. I like to get pushed to the limit, and I like to test how far I can go.
I did once get punched in the face, yes. There was this professional boxer who would always come in the hour before me. One day he was getting ready for this fight, and media was there. They asked me who would win in a fight. I said, "Well, clearly, I would. He doesn't hit women, right?" So the next day I come in and he goes, "Caroline, in the ring, right now." So we go a couple of rounds, and every time I would put my guard down, he would just tap me a little bit, just make me aware that he could have punched me. All of a sudden, I get him in the corner and I just start going at him. He wasn't really expecting it, and automatically, his hand just went forward and hit my nose, and I just fell down. I was like, "OK, I'm done. I don't need to do this anymore."
I felt pretty badass, to be honest. Not a lot of people can say they've gotten punched in the face in the ring.
Growing up, I would really just kill it in the gym until I couldn't stand anymore. The older I've gotten, I'm so much better at listening to my body. If you push yourself too much, it's going to be worse.
I've realized that I can't spend time stressing about something I don't have and just embrace what I do have. It's so in to have curves now. It's in to be looking healthy. If I don't look like a supermodel on the runway, that's OK because I look good in my own way.
I was always really skinny until I hit puberty. As a girl coming into a woman, that time is always a little bit frightening. At one point I was like, "Are they changing the clothes sizes or am I getting bigger?" I was like, "No, for sure the sizes must have been small." I think being in the public eye and getting judged for everything you do and however you look, I think that helped me as well. Just saying, "You know what? People will have an opinion. Some people will love you; some people will not."
I rarely stand on a scale, to be honest. When I stop playing, I'm not going to obsess so much about my weight. It's going to be more about a healthy lifestyle. It's more about how I feel.
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