SEOUL, South Korea - Caroline Wozniacki and Kaia Kanepi toughed out some marathon semifinal matches at the KDB Korea Open on Saturday and will now square off for the title at the $500,000 International-level event.
The No.1-seeded Wozniacki was the first to advance to the final, coming so close to closing Ekaterina Makarova out in straight sets but eventually needing a third set to win. Wozniacki had won all four of their previous meetings handily in straight sets and this one looked headed that way as well, as Wozniacki served for the match at 61 54 and 30-0; Makarova rallied to win the set but Wozniacki won the war against the No.8-seeded Russian, 61 57 64.
"I did really well in the first set but couldn't close the second set out; I'm happy I finally broke her one more time in the third," Wozniacki said. "She was returning very well today but I was just trying to focus on the next ball and the next game, and moving my feet better. At the end of the day I'm happy to get through."
The No.3-seeded Kanepi followed Wozniacki into the final with a see-saw win over No.6 seed Varvara Lepchenko, 64 26 64, losing a lopsided second set but regrouping to take it in the third. The two were largely evenly matched throughout the match, but one number may stand out - Kanepi was 4/5 on her break point opportunities in the match, and Lepchenko just 4/10 on hers.
Kanepi's run to the Seoul final is particularly impressive given this is her first tournament in more than three months - after the French Open she had to pull out of 10 tournaments, including Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open, due to a bilateral Achilles injury. This week it seems the she hasn't lost a step.
"My season has definitely had its ups and downs because of my injuries, but last year was the same, and my whole career has been a little bit up and down as well," Kanepi commented. "It's nothing new and I'm used to it."
There's a silver lining for Lepchenko however - by virtue of making the semifinals and Makarova not winning the title, the No.21-ranked American will make her Top 20 debut on the next rankings. The last time an American other than Venus Williams or Serena Williams was in the Top 20 was nearly six years ago, the week of November 6, 2006 - it was none other than Lindsay Davenport.
Wozniacki leads Kanepi in their head-to-head series, 3-2, but Kanepi did win their only previous 2012 meeting (a dramatic three set win at the French Open, though Kanepi did originally have a 61 51 lead in that match).
"I've played her before and I usually try to be patient and not take huge risks, because she can get a lot of balls back in play," Kanepi said. "If my shots are working well tomorrow I will be aggressive, but if they aren't, I'll stay patient.
"Our last match was a tough match - we've always had very tough matches."