Caroline Wozniacki has bid an emotional farewell to tennis following a third-round Australian Open loss to Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur.
Champion at Melbourne Park just two years ago, Wozniacki choked back tears as she paid special tribute to her lifelong coach and father Piotr on Friday.
"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 in 2018.
"It's fitting I finished my career with a three-setter, a grinder and on a forehand error. Those are the things I've been working on my whole career. Guess this is just how it was meant to be," the great Dane said after bowing out 7-5 3-6 7-5 on Melbourne Arena.
Even after enduring defeat of her own, seven-times Open champion Serena Williams found time to pay tribute to a long-term rival.
"She's had an amazing career. Oh my god, I'm getting emotional. I'm going to miss her," Williams said.
"I can't answer Caroline questions, I'm going to be crying. She's one of my best friends in the world. I will miss her out on tour."
Wozniacki, who also lost US Open finals to Kim Clijsters in 2009 and Williams in 2014, spent a total 71 weeks as world No.1 - the eighth longest reign since rankings were introduced in 1975.
"I had a dream when I was a kid. I wanted to win a grand slam," she said.
"I wanted to be No.1 in the world. People thought that I was crazy being from a small country. But I made it happen.
"I worked so hard for it every single day. I'm very, very proud of that."
Wozniacki has rheumatoid arthritis that causes fatigue and joint pain, but the 29-year-old said the debilitating condition had nothing to do with her retirement.
She hopes to start a family with husband and former NBA star David Lee.
The couple embraced on court and she was held aloft triumphantly by her father Piotr in what Wozniacki described as a "perfect" ending.
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 I played Caro - you're an inspiration to me and so many players," the 25-year-old said.
"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 Williams' conquerer Qiang Wang on Sunday for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Australian Associated Press