Caroline Wozniacki’s tennis farewell couldn’t have been any more fitting.
The former Australian Open champion bowed out of the sport in typically fighting fashion, going down to Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur in a third round thriller.
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Renowned for being one of the greatest competitors throughout her career on the women’s circuit, Wozniacki went down 7-5 3-6 7-5 to Jabeur on Melbourne Arena on Friday.
Champion at Melbourne Park two years ago, Wozniacki choked back tears as she paid special tribute to her lifelong coach and father Piotr.
"I usually don't cry, so sorry but these are the special memories that I will always cherish," said the former world No.1.
"It's been a great ride. I'm ready for the next chapter. I'm really excited about what's next to come."
Revered as one of the fiercest fighters women's tennis has ever seen, Wozniacki landed her only grand slam crown in Melbourne with an epic victory over Simona Halep.
Wozniacki was unable to get close to emulating that feat as Jabeur’s brilliant victory brought the curtain down on the 29-year-old’s career.
There were moving scenes inside Melbourne Arena as the crowd belted out Neil Diamond's classic 'Sweet Caroline' in honour of the former champion.
Tributes to Wozniacki came rolling in thick and fast on social media as fans paid their respects to the Dane.
Wozniacki on what she’ll do tonight: “Hopefully not cry. I think it was only fitting that my last match would be a three setter, a grinder, and my career would finish with a forehand error. I guess it was meant to be.” #AusOpen— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 24, 2020
Former #AustralianOpen champion Caroline Wozniacki who spent 71 weeks ranked number 1 has played her final match as a pro. An absolute class act throughout her excellent career. She will be missed. #AusOpen— Ron Waxman 🏳️🌈 (@RonWaxman) January 24, 2020
Thank You, Caroline Wozniacki.— Soumojit (@Being_Max) January 24, 2020
Zero BS, played hard and ran her socks off, grand slam champion and now, leaving the game on her own terms. #AusOpen
Congrats to Caroline Wozniacki on an amazing career! Grit, and competitiveness of a champion. All the best in retirement— Cʜᴜᴄᴋ ᴅᴏᴜɢʟᴀs ✪ (@ChuckDouglas_) January 24, 2020
Class act. She will be missed.— meaghan boeing (@MeaghanBoeing) January 24, 2020
This is so sad💔😭— . (@Riley___Jackson) January 24, 2020
Ons Jabeur beats Caroline Wozniacki to reach the second week of a Slam for the first time, winning a seesaw 7-5, 3-6, 7-5.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 24, 2020
Wozniacki's last match was a fitting one: grinding and battling to the very end.
So ends an incredible career--should be a first-ballot hall-of-fame lock.
Full tears now for Caroline Wozniacki as a classy Ons Jabeur heaps praise on her on court in interview, then runs and gives Woz a hug. Nice moment #AusOpen— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) January 24, 2020
Draped in Danish flag with Sweet Caroline blasting from the speakers & tears pouring from not only her face but her fans, Caroline Wozniacki walks off the court for the final time in her career. @1116sen pic.twitter.com/7BJY9jL6Fb— Meredith Gibbs (@meredith_gibbs) January 24, 2020
‘You're an inspiration’
The emotions were running high at Melbourne Park but Wozniacki still managed to crack a joke amongst the many tears.
"It was only fitting that my last match would be a three-setter, a grinder, and a forehand error. I've been working on those things my whole career. I guess this was just meant to be," the Great Dane said after bowing out 7-5 3-6 7-5 on Melbourne Arena.
In backing up her first-round upset win over 12th seed Johanna Konta, Jabeur is through to the last 16 at a major for the first time in her career.
"I'm really happy, especially because this grand slam I usually lose first round," the 25-year-old said.
"I don't have much experience so I was nervous, especially in that last set.
"I'm really happy I played Caro - you're an inspiration to me and so many players.
"I was actually a little bit stressed about that. It's her moment and I don't want to take that away from her."
The only Arab to have ever made a WTA Final, Jabeur will play giant-killing Qiang Wang on Sunday for a spot in the quarter-finals after China's 27th seed sent seven-times champion Serena Williams packing with a 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 upset win.