Patrick Wozniacki Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Dubai: Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki’s elder brother has backed his “lion-hearted” sister to be at her best as the season progresses.

The 2018 Australian Open champion was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, just before the start of the US Open last year.

Not the one to give up, the 28-year-old Dane went on to compete in the season’s last Grand Slam until she fell in three sets to two-time defending Dubai champion Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in their third-round match.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects joints.

It typically results in warm, swollen and painful joints, with the pain and stiffness often worsening following rest.

Her older brother Patrick, in Dubai this week with a four-member crew covering the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships for a television channel in Denmark, was confident that his younger sister would get past this challenge.

“She is not the most talented. She is not the most smart player on Tour, but she is fighting all the time. She has the heart of a lion,” Patrick told Gulf News.

“She is going through a hard period due to her recent sickness. It is not easy to work with a situation that she is in. She will know her body even better than now and I think in time, she will overcome this as well,” he added.

Born just four years apart, Patrick said his sister’s immensely competitive spirit will see her through the worst times as in the past.

“Perhaps, she has to listen better to her body and take breaks when they are needed. Maybe she should re-schedule a little bit and then work on her body and be ready. I think she played 19 tournaments last year, so maybe she should cut down on this workload and play less,” he suggested.

A footballer himself, Patrick has played in the Danish Superliga for clubs such as AB, BK Frem and Bronshoj BK — starting off as a defender before moving forward to become a striker.

He currently plays as an attacking midfielder for amateur side FC Graenrodderne and occasionally does commentary for football and tennis.

“As kids, we were taught to chase our dreams and that is exactly what we have both done. We were also told that nothing comes easy and that we have to work hard, and that’s how she became the player she is. What she has achieved is amazing and incredible and I think we will really cherish that when she ends her career,” Patrick said.

Despite being a former World No. 1, Wozniacki did not win a Grand Slam until the 2018 Australian Open — a feat which also helped her briefly capture the number one ranking after a six-year wait.

“Going down the childhood path I have a lot of memories together. We have had rivalries since we were small. We competed against each other for everything and we still do. We competed on the tennis court. We played backgammon. We played football together. We used to swim and she was better than I was,” he recalled.

“But the best memory I have is of her returning home to Denmark with her Australian Open trophy last year. I couldn’t be with her in Melbourne when she won it. But two days later, she came and visited my girlfriend and our son at home with the trophy — and that was simply an amazing experience for us. No doubt she has been going through a hard time at the moment, but are sticking together as a family,” he added.