Caroline Wozniacki’s 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 loss to Elina Svitolina Thursday night in Singapore eliminated her from the WTA Tour Finals, and ended her 2018 season.
But the 2017 champion had far more significant news to discuss at her post-match press conference.
Wozniacki revealed that she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis after the US Open.
“In the beginning, it was a shock, just you feel like you’re the fittest athlete out there – or that’s in my head, that’s what I’m known for – and all of a sudden you have this to work with,” the 28-year-old Dane told the media in Singapore.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder in which the immune system attacked the synovium – the lining of the membranes that suround the joints in the body.
Women are more likely than men to get it. But according to the Mayo Clinic’s website, Wozniacki is far younger than the norm, which averages between 40 and 60 years of age. She also doesn’t smoke and she’s (obviously) not overweight, two more groups susceptible to contracting it.
Trouble in Montreal
Wozniacki told the media that she suffered from fatigue after Wimbledon. And one morning during the Rogers Cup in Montreal, she couldn’t lift her arms up over her head.
She lost her first match in Montreal in a third-set tiebeak to Aryna Sabalenka. And she retired after losing the first set of her first match in Cincinnati against Kiki Bertens.
It’s a disease that alternates flareups with periods where those who have it feel just fine. And that is what has been happening to Wozniacki, who is taking medication and undergoing treatment to manage it.
“I think I didn’t want to talk about it obviously during the year because I don’t want to give anyone the edge or thinking that I’m not feeling well, but I have been feeling well. You learn how to just cope after matches,” Wozniacki said.
“Some days you wake up and you can’t get out of bed and you just have to know that’s how it is. But other days you live and you’re fine. You don’t even feel like you have it. … It’s something that now I’m happy that I’m done with the season and you can just kind of control it a little bit more and figure out a plan how to control it even better in the future.”
Slow summer, successful fall
The Dane finished the season well in Asia, despite being eliminated in the round-robin segment of the Tour Finals.
She didn’t drop a set in winning the Premier Mandatory tournament in Beijing earlier this month.
It was an encouraging victory in ways that went far beyond the result.
Wozniacki said her physician said that what limitations there might be are up to her, and that a lot of it came down to positive mental attitude. Which Wozniacki has no shortage of.
“Obviously winning in Beijing was huge. It also gave me the belief that nothing is going to set me back. I’m going to work with this and this is how it is, and I can do anything,” Wozniacki said.
“I know there are a lot of people in the world that are fighting with this, and hopefully I can be someone they can look up to and say if I can do this, then they can too. And you just kind of have to get together and pull each other up.”
Wozniacki sits at No. 3 in the rankings, and only Naomi Osaka (who lost her first two round-robin matches) has a slight chance of bumping her down before the end of the season.