Wozniacki Wins Third Title of Year in Tokyo
Published October 05, 2008 12:00
TOKYO, Japan - Caroline Wozniacki had a breakthrough summer, winning her first two titles, cracking the world's Top 20 and reaching the second week of the US Open, where she pushed Jelena Jankovic to three before falling. She cooled off somewhat in the first few weeks of the fall season, losing first round in her first two events, but this week at the AIG Japan Open she rekindled her summer magic in a big way, storming to her third Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of the year (and of her career).
Wozniacki, who came into Tokyo ranked a career-high No.16, was the top seed, and aside from a shaky start and close finish she upheld that tournament favorite status throughout. She lost the first set of her opener but roared back to beat Gisela Dulko, 46 60 63, then notched straight set wins over Ayumi Morita, Tamarine Tanasugarn and Jarmila Gajdosova in the second round, quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
Meanwhile, on the bottom half of the draw, Kaia Kanepi - seeded No.5 - was also in solid form, notching three set wins over Lucie Safarova and Yanina Wickmayer in the early rounds and then edging Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Aleksandra Wozniak in tight two-setters in the quarters and semis. Those wins propelled the Estonian into her second career final on the Tour, and a chance to avenge a runner-up finish to the now-retired Kim Clijsters at Hasselt in the fall of 2006.
The final saw the two Europeans clashing for the first time. Wozniacki was the quick starter, reeling off the first four games of the match en route to a 6-2 first set; Kanepi retaliated in the second set, breaking early and holding on for a 6-3 second set, but the match flipped again in the third as the Danish teenager found her mojo again and dusted off a 62 36 61 championship victory.
"I'm really excited to win this tournament," Wozniacki said. "I had some tough draws against some great players the last few weeks, but both matches were close and I still felt I was playing well. When I saw I was playing Dulko in the first round I thought it would be another tough week, but I took it one match at a time and I'm happy I made it through that and the rest of my matches."
"It was a good match. I definitely had my chances in the second set and I hit a lot of good winners, but she's very aggressive and if you don't keep up with her, she will win," Kanepi said. "I have been here without a coach for the last few weeks. I've been working to figure out who I am on the court by myself, and how I'm playing. I'm very happy with the result, that I made it to the final on my own."
In Stockholm, Wozniacki became the first Danish player ever to capture a Tour singles title. She now has four overall Tour titles, having added singles titles at New Haven and now Tokyo and a doubles title last week in Beijing, partnering Anabel Medina Garrigues. The only other Dane ever to capture a Tour title of any kind was Tine Scheuer-Larsen, who earned seven Tour doubles titles in the 1980s and 1990s, partnering the likes of former greats Mercedes Paz and Jana Novotna.
"Japan means a lot to me," Wozniacki said. "I won my first big junior tournament in Osaka, and now this. I always like to come back here. I really like the people and the country in general - and when that's the case, you play better."
The only Top 4 seed to reach their projected semifinal spot was Wozniacki. None of the other Top 4 seeds even reached the quarters, with No.2 seed Medina Garrigues, No.3 seed Zheng Jie and No.4 seed Maria Kirilenko all falling first or second round. Instead a number of unheralded players made it through, most notably Gajdosova, who suffered a heartbreaking third set tie-break loss in the final round of qualifying but more than made up for it with her first ever semifinal.
Also making the headlines during the week was Japanese legend Kimiko Date Krumm, who played her second Tour event since coming back to professional tennis. She fell to No.6 seed Shahar Peer quietly in the first round, 63 61.
The doubles title match, which featured two unseeded teams, was played later on Saturday, with Jill Craybas and Marina Erakovic taking on Japanese combo Morita and Aiko Nakamura. And it was Craybas and Erakovic who prevailed in a match tie-break, 46 75 106, for their first title together. Craybas took away her fourth career Tour doubles title while Erakovic earned her second.