Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy formed the ultimate sports it couple: Two young, charismatic athletes who were each famous before getting together but whose star status soared when they were together.
Their romance and subsequent engagement formed one of the biggest feel-good off-the-court and off-the-course stories in sports.
That was, of course, until McIlroy broke off the engagement earlier this summer just days after sending out wedding invitations.
Wozniacki and McIlroy were the subjects of a wave of sympathy after their relationship ended. But then something interesting happened: Both athletes started a stretch of play unlike any in their respective careers. McIlroy has won back-to-back majors, and Wozniacki is playing Sunday in the championship match at the U.S. Open.
Here’s what you need to know about the couple, their breakup and their subsequent successes:
1. McIlroy Left His Girlfriend in 2011 to Be With Wozniacki
McIlroy and Wozniacki began dating in 2011 after meeting after one of Wozniacki’s matches. Although McIlroy had a girlfriend at the time, he showed interest in Wozniacki as she became more prominent after her professional debut in 2005.
Holly Sweeney spoke to the Irish Sunday Mirror just after McIlroy left her for Wozniacki in 2011. She recalled the foreshadowing when McIlroy told her that he “fancied” Wozniacki while they were watching a tennis match together earlier that year.
Sweeney was heartbroken when McIlroy left her at home and flew to Germany to watch a boxing match where he met the tennis star and proceeded to end his relationship with her.
She told the Irish Sunday Mirror:
“Then he got home, went straight to see the dogs instead of me, dodged me when he came through the door and then sat me down and told me that he met with her in Germany and that he wanted to see how it would go with her.”
2. McIlroy Proposed to Wozniacki on New Year’s Eve, but Broke Off the Engagement in May
After three years of dating, McIlroy popped the question on New Year’s Eve in Australia.
The happy couple talked about their plans for the wedding for a long time and then shocked the world in May, when McIlroy announced he and Wozniacki mutually decided to split only days after sending out wedding invitations.
McIlroy made a statement prior to the BMW PGA Championship: (Watch his press conference in the video above.)
“It is quite a difficult time for Caroline and myself, and the statement really said it all this morning. It was mutual and we both thought it was the best for us, the best for both of us. Time to move on, and I’ve said all that I need to say.”
Wozniacki told the Associated Press of the split:
“What happens in my personal life, I just want to really keep that between my closest people around me. I just have to move on.”
3. McIlroy Has Been Linked to Model Nadia Forde
McIlroy and model Nadia Forde were “spotted in the trendy House bar” on Dublin’s Leeson Street in July, according to The Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper. The couple hung out with a group of McIlroy’s friends and rang up a bar tab of £5,500 (about $7,489). Sources told the Irish Mail about the new pair’s evening:
According to sources Rory and Nadia were seen ‘getting close’ all night and left the pub alone together just before 3 a.m. where Rory had a chauffeur-driven Mercedes waiting outside.
4. McIlroy Won the British Open & the PGA Championship After the Split
McIlroy, whose rise to the top of the golf world had slowed over the past three years, has been on a tear for the past four months.
The Norther Irishman won the European Tour’s BMW Championship just days after announcing the split, and at that point, he was just getting started. He won the British Open in July and followed that performance up by winning the PGA Championship, firmly establishing himself as the best golfer in the world.
5. Wozniacki Has Played Great Tennis All Summer & Is Seeking Her 1st Career Major
On July 20 — the same day that McIlroy was celebrating his British Open victory — Wozniacki won a tournament of her own when she crushed Roberta Vinci 6-1 6-1 to win the Istanbul Cup for her first tournament win of the year and the 22nd of her career.
The win was the start of a dazzling stretch of tennis that has led Wozniacki to her first U.S. Open final since 2009, just before she became the top-ranked player in the world. (Watch the video above for a throwback to her status as the world’s top-ranked player.)
Wozniacki has long held the bittersweet title of being the best women’s player in the world to have never won a Grand Slam. She’ll have an opportunity to change that Sunday, when she takes on top-seeded Serena Williams with the Open title on the line.