Australian Open winner Wozniacki reveals rheumatoid arthritis battle

Wozniacki reaching for the ball at the US Open 2018 image source: flickr, Carine06

By Rosie Foley

Caroline Wozniacki spoke out last week after defeat in the WTA Final in Singapore about suffering with rheumatoid arthritis.

2018 has been a year of highs and lows for Caroline Wozniacki. At the beginning of the year the 28-year-old became the Australian Open winner, claiming her first Grand Slam title. Also, holding No.1 ranking for a brief period. However, in the latter end of the year she learned of a long-term health condition which could affect the rest of her career.

Wozniacki was first diagnosed with the condition at the end of summer, before the US Open. When she first found out about her illness she was ‘shocked’ that she had been able to play through it. Wozniacki said that she felt unwell after Wimbledon before waking up in August unable to lift her arms and had to deal with the condition daily.

“I have an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, which goes in and attacks your joints,” said the 28-year-old.

“In the beginning it was just shock. 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.”

Rheumatoid arthritis as NHS UK states ‘is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.’ With the symptoms usually affecting the ‘hands, feet and wrists’, all essential joints for a tennis player. There is no cure for it but if caught early, treatment enables people ‘to have periods of months or even years’ between bouts of it.

The WTA Singapore Final saw Wozniacki fall to defending champion Elina Svitolina, finishing her 2018 season. Wozniacki was very happy with her demeanour throughout the competitive year. After finding out this information she still went on to win the Bejing Open, three weeks ago. This win boosted her confidence.

“I’m very proud of how I have been so positive through it all and just kind of tried to not let that hinder me.”

“Winning in Bejing was huge. It also gave me the belief that nothing is going to set me back.”

Wozniacki took a few months to reveal her condition because she did not want it to be viewed as a weakness by her competitors.

“I didn’t want to talk about it during the year because I don’t want to give anyone the edge, thinking I’m not feeling well.”

After the Singapore final she spoke about how it has affected her daily life from not being able to leave bed to some days being completely normal. However, she commented on how she has dealt with it and ‘deal with it and live with it’.

“Some days you wake up and you can’t get out of bed, but other days you live and you’re fine. You don’t even feel like you have it.”

“You find a plan, figure out what to do, you do your research, and thankfully there are great things now that you can do about it.”

Wozniacki is very positive about her condition, as the treatment for it has improved. The main treatment for it is medication taken in the long-term, with supportive treatments like physiotherapy.

“The medicine now is so amazing so I’m not worried about it. You just have to be aware.”

“I’m going to work with this and this is how it is, and I can do anything.”

Wozniaki knows that this condition is a ‘lifetime thing’ and will now spend her off-season planning on how to deal with the illness.

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