Caroline Wozniacki is ready to hang up her racket.
The 29-year-old Grand Slam champion is retiring from tennis, she tells PEOPLE.
“I’ve thought about it for a long time,” she says in an exclusive interview. “It’s obviously not an easy decision, and I don’t think it ever would be. Tennis is something that I’ve done for my entire life, and I wake up and I practice and I play tournaments, but there’s so many other things out there that I’d love to do.”
Wozniacki says she’ll finish out her career at the Australian Open in January, the tournament that she won in 2018 to earn her first Grand Slam title.
“I love it there,” she says. “The support there for me has always been amazing.”
And Wozniacki, who made it to the semi-finals of the China Open in October, says she wants go out before playing becomes stale.
“I wanted to finish playing when I still had this love for the game,” she says. “I love to be out there. I can beat the best players in the world when I play my best, and that’s how I wanted to finish.”
Wozniacki says her decision came down to wanting to have more time for her life outside of tennis.
“I got married to my husband [former NBA player David Lee, in June], which was amazing. We want to start a family,” she says. “And I can’t wait to spend more time with my friends and family that I haven’t been able to over the past 20 years that I’ve been traveling.”
She also says that her recent diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was not a factor.
“I don’t think it is hindering me,” she says. “It makes some things more challenging, but I feel great in the day-to-day. I feel like I can do anything, and I’ve won some of my biggest titles of my career with this illness.”
Those wins include her Australian Open title in Jan. 2018, which brought her back to the world no. 1 ranking, and the China Open in Oct. 2018. Wozniacki was formally diagnosed just after the 2018 Wimbledon Championships, and decided to share that news publicly after her China Open win.
“It felt like the perfect time,” she says. “I never wanted to use RA as an excuse for anything.”
And Wozniacki has big plans to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis after her final match.
“We’re launching a new health education campaign centered around rheumatoid arthritis,” she says. “I felt that it was important that I use my platform to share my story and show that anything is possible, regardless of RA.”
While Wozniacki feels fully ready to retire and “excited about the next chapter,” there are things she’ll miss.
“I’ll probably miss the competitiveness the most, of winning a tight match and that adrenaline that goes through your body,” she says. “I think that will be hard to replicate in anything else you do in life.”
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