TOKYO, Japan -- One of the most prolific WTA titlists of recent years had experienced misfortune in championship matches in 2017, but Caroline Wozniacki finally turned that bad luck around at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.
Wozniacki, the defending champion, disposed of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia on Sunday, 6-0, 7-5 to repeat in Japan and raise her first trophy of the season.
After six unsuccessful final appearances this year, Wozniacki can breathe a sigh of relief, as she extends her streak of winning at least one title per year to 10 years, dating back to 2008.
“It feels great," said Wozniacki, when asked about clinching her first title of the year. "It was really important for me to get there and just stay focused and aggressive and positive. I think I managed to do that, and it feels great to have won the title.”
This is Wozniacki's 26th WTA singles title -- her 21st on hardcourt -- which is the fourth-most among active players (surpassed only by Serena and Venus Williams, and Maria Sharapova). This is also her third Toray Pan Pacific Open title, adding to her championship efforts from last year, as well as in 2010.
"I really enjoy playing here in Tokyo," said Wozniacki. "The court suits my game well and I feel good having won the title this year again."
In one respect, it was a classic match from Wozniacki, as she hit only three unforced errors in the entire match. But that incredibly low number was bolstered by 16 winners, as the former World No.1 was determinedly aggressive from the outset, serving well and spectacularly changing directions on her groundstrokes.
In fact, Wozniacki was extremely effective on serve throughout the match. In the first set, she lost just three points on serve. The World No.6 also had six aces, and never faced a break point, even when the match became competitive in its latter stages.
"Obviously, she’s a very strong player," Wozniacki said of Pavlyuchenkova. "She plays very powerfully, takes the ball early, so it was really important for me to make her move, and serve well especially. In the first set, everything was going my way and was going really well."
"In the second set, she managed to serve a little bit better, so it was tricky for me to break her serve," Wozniacki continued. "But I think it was a good match for both."
Pavlyuchenkova started slowly, double faulting twice in her first service game to give Wozniacki a 2-0 lead. Living and dying by her backhand, the Russian gave up multiple unforced errors off of that side in her next service game to give Wozniacki a second break and a 4-0 lead.
After another hold for 5-0, it looked like Wozniacki would claim a first-set wipeout, chasing down a stellar Pavlyuchenkova cross-court groundstroke and returning it with a massive down-the-line backhand winner of her own. Pavlyuchenkova was a point away from claiming that game, but Wozniacki erased it and clinched a 6-0 set with a wonderful passing shot.
After the first set, Pavlyuchenkova increased the effectiveness on her first serve, winning a much greater percentage of points.
She persisted in taking the ball early, and her efficacy improved in that respect as well. She finished the match with 23 winners, although 31 unforced errors blunted their impact.
Still, the Russian made the match much more competitive after the opening set. Pavlyuchenkova finally held for 1-1, ending a 16-game winning streak for Wozniacki, dating back to her victory over World No.1 Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals.
At 3-3, Pavlyuchenkova, had Wozniacki on the ropes, but when down 0-30, the Dane cracked two consecutive aces, and was able to hold despite being tested for the first time.
In short order, with Pavlyuchenkova serving down 5-4, a forehand error by the Russian gave Wozniacki her first championship point. Pavlyuchenkova was unbowed, staying aggressive and hitting powerful backhands to save the match point, and held for 5-5.
Forced to serve to stay in the match again, Pavlyuchenkova was unable to hold off Wozniacki a second time. At 15-0, Wozniacki unleashed her expectedly stunning defense, running numerous hard-struck balls down until Pavlyuchenkova barely clipped the net cord with a backhand, sending the ball wide.
From there, the Russian lost a bit of concentration, and two consecutive unforced errors gave Wozniacki double championship point.
The first was saved by a forehand winner, but a superb backhand by the Dane forced a final miscue from Pavlyuchenkova, giving Wozniacki the title after one hour and 13 minutes.
By defending her title, Wozniacki maintains her World No.6 ranking, and moves into the Top 5 of the Porsche Race to Singapore. "I’m just happy that it’s been a great year," said Wozniacki, "and hopefully I can finish it off strong with the last few events."