Eastbourne | Sabalenka rising to the top
Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, the 2009 former Eastbourne champion, reached her third final at Devonshire Park in ten appearances when she beat Angelique Kerber 2-6 7-6(4) 6-3 on Friday.
Wozniacki will face the unseeded Aryna Sabalenka for the first time for the title, after the Belarusian defeated earlier in the day, 2008 champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3 1-6 6-3.
I remember when I was young I would watch (Wozniacki's) game... and I thought 'it would be nice to play against her, I hope it will happen sometime'. Now I play a final with her and I'm happy Aryna Sabalenka
Australian Open champion Wozniacki saved a match point at 5-6 in the second set against Kerber, to secure her allotted place in the Nature Valley International final after 2 hours, 17 minutes of a gruelling baseline duel in which she fired 34 winners to her opponent’s 42!
Recording her 30th match victory of the season, Wozniacki improved her head-to-head record against Kerber to 7-8, to reach the 53rd final of her career.
“I knew it was going to be difficult again out there today, but I got a little lucky in that second set and just kept my head down for the third one,” said Wozniacki, last year’s runner-up.
“I got lucky to break her there at 6-5. I saved a match point when we had a great rally and I managed to hit the corner on that match point. Then, in the tiebreaker, I started off aggressively and it went my way and I hit a few lines and it just kind of went from there.”
Meanwhile the 20-year-old Sabalenka, 20, reached her third career final – her first at Premier level – having previously fallen short in Tianjin last year and Lugano last April.
She finished off the first set with her first ace but, after breaking Radwanska in the first game of the second set, she lost her focus and six games in a row.
Radwanska was serving a break up at 3-2, 40-0 in the third when Sabalenka recovered and powered back winning four straight games, saving a break point in the last.
She is the third woman from Belarus to reach the final at Eastbourne, and was delighted with her performance so far during a week that’s seen her beat three seeded opponents and record her first top 10 victory (over world No.7 Karolina Pliskova).
Saturday’s final will be Wozniacki and Sabalenka’s first meeting, and the world No.45 said: “One week before I didn’t know I will make a final here, but then I just tried to show my best, because I know I can play well. I did my best, and now I’m in the final and I’m so happy.”
And she said it felt amazing to reach the final at Eastbourne. “I remember when I was young I would watch (Wozniacki’s) game… and I thought: ‘it would be nice to play against her, I hope it will happen sometime’. Now I play a final with her and I’m happy.”
And she watched some of her next opponent’s match in the afternoon. “I remember one situation with Wozniacki, she was running and put all the balls in, it was the longest point I’ve ever seen” leaving her to predict the final: “It will be interesting,”