Singapore | Wozniacki stuns Venus
Caroline Wozniacki won her first true major in Singapore, sweeping aside Venus Williams in straight sets to win the WTA Finals.
Eight players, the best of 2017, battled each other for over the week and, at the last, it was the popular Dane who was the last woman standing.
The No 6 seed moved past the 5th-seeded Williams, 6-4 6-4, to claim the title at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global on Sunday, besting her runner-up finish in 2010.
Seven times before, Wozniacki had been trounced by her American opponent, winning just one set in all those encounters.
To say this result was big for the Dane is to understate her work ethic and sheer competitiveness and, on this the biggest occasion of her career, she finally defined herself worthy of the top.
In lifting the Billie Jean King Trophy, Wozniacki positively beamed as she became the first Dane to win the prestigious season finale of the women’s tour.
I was up 5-0, everything was going well, and all of a sudden, Venus just starts upping her game. “She went for her shots, she started serving to my body, and I’m just so happy that I managed to win in the end. It's really sweet, it's amazing. I couldn't be happier right now Caroline Wozniacki
Wozniacki showed up for the final with aggressive tennis and rarely put a foot wrong, committing just 8 unforced errors during the 1 hour 29-minute final match to clinch the biggest win of her career.
She had to survive a stirring comeback from Williams, though, in the second set.
“I’m still shaking,” Wozniacki said in her on-court interview after the match.
“I was up 5-0, everything was going well, and all of a sudden, Venus just starts upping her game.
“She went for her shots, she started serving to my body, and I’m just so happy that I managed to win in the end. It’s really sweet, it’s amazing. I couldn’t be happier right now.”
After her seven previous losses, the win was all the more satisfying.
“Eight is my lucky number!” the Dane enthused. “I was hoping that if I’m going to beat her, at least once in my career, it has to be today. I just went out there and I just did my best.”
Williams, 37, looked increasingly weary as the match wore on after playing a gruelling, three-set semi-final against Caroline Garcia on Saturday.
In a contrast of styles, counter-puncher Wozniacki tried to extend the rallies while her big-hitting opponent attempted to shorten points through sheer power and rushes to the net.
Wozniacki took the initiative early on, breaking Williams’ serve in only the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead.
The American responded by immediately breaking back with a thunderous forehand drive down the line before holding her own serve to level 3-3.
The pivotal moment came in the 8th game when Wozniacki broke again before serving for the set.
It was just the second time she had taken a set off Williams in their 7 meetings, and her form of 10 winners and just 3 unforced errors went a long way to putting her in control.
A break at the start of the second set saw Wozniacki race to a 3-0 lead and look on course for a first title in Singapore.
A second break followed on her way to a 5-0 advantage and Williams looked a little shell-shocked as the Dane, who was in magnificent form, stepped on the gas in what looked to be a whitewash victory.
The 37-year old American, however, was not going down without a fight, winning the next 4 games and piling the pressure on.
From 0-5 down she had begun a dizzying array of unbelievable tennis, sending shots every which way and leaving Wozniacki visibly rattled.
The Dane argued with the chair umpire about fans yelling as she stepped up to serve and she and Victor, her father and coach, had a very long talk at a change of ends.
Williams restored some dignity by pulling the score back to 5-4, much to the jubilation of the fans in the Singapore Indoor Stadium, who wanted more, but Wozniacki was not prepared to give it to them, breaking again and sealing victory on her second match point with a backhand winner down the line, and tossing her racket in the air as she celebrated her stunning triumph.
Wozniacki’s victory is her second of the season in 8 finals after she successfully defended her Pan Pacific Open title in Tokyo last month.
The Dane had beaten world No 1 Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova on her way to the final of the season-ending tournament, and downed her nemesis in the process to end her 2017 on a high.
In doing so, she leapfrogs Pliskova in the WTA rankings and picked up her 60th win of a terrific season.
Williams has now come agonisingly close to a notable title for the third time this season, having lost the finals at the Australian Open to sister Serena and at Wimbledon to Garbiñe Muguruza.
“I didn’t seem to come up with my best tennis until the end,” Venus said. “I love being here, it’s an honour. Only eight people get to be here and I hope to return.
“Congratulations to Caroline, it’s been a great week. I didn’t seem to come up with my best tennis until it was too late. I’ll try and play a little better earlier next time.”
Commentating on BT Sport, Martina Navratilova felt Williams could well have ended Wozniacki’s career had the Dane not prevailed in winning the title.
“She was not going to win by playing the same way as she has against Venus before – where she’s won one set and lost 14,” said Navratilova.
“She had to go for it, she had to be brave, she wasn’t going to win the match by playing not to lose.
“At the end, when she was 5-0 up and it went to 5-4, I thought ‘oh my goodness, if she loses this match, there goes the career’.
“It would have been really hard for her to get over that hump as she allowed Venus back into the match.
“It may have been only a little bit but Venus, being the champion she is, took it and started playing much better.
“She really had to win at the end and she did do it by playing that forehand down the line.
“Man she squeaked it out, she went against the grain and it paid off.”
In fact, Wozniacki, in her first WTA Finals since 2014, flourished in Singapore, with a tough three-set defeat to Caroline Garcia her only slip-up.
It completed an exceptional comeback season for the two-time Grand Slam finalist, who endured an injury-marred 2016 and had finished ranked a lowly 19, her worst position since 2007.
The amiable Dane is now projected to finish the year ranked World No 3 after reaching 8 finals, and winning two titles, including the Toray Pan Pacific Open to go alongside her WTA Finals trophy.
Her heroics in Singapore also make her the season leader in match wins with 60 to her credit and 13 wins against Top 10 players.