MOSCOW, Russia - Coming in she talked about being healthy and feeling she was "hitting the ball well lately" - little did she know, or at least little did she give off, that she was on the verge of her biggest result in over a year. Caroline Wozniacki went all the way to the Kremlin Cup title, her first Premier title since New Haven 14 months ago - and her milestone 20th overall WTA title.
Towards the end of a long season that saw her win just one WTA title, the International title in Seoul a few weeks ago, Wozniacki didn't project any major expectations in her pre-tournament press conference in the Russian capital.
"I'm just happy I'm healthy, and I feel I've been hitting the ball well lately, so I'm just hoping to play well here this week," Wozniacki said in that press conference. "Everyone's quite tired at the end of the season - I'm hoping to play well here, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to some holidays."
Sometimes the magic comes back when you least expect it though, and the player who ended the last two years No.1 had it back in Moscow, battling past Dominika Cibulkova and Sofia Arvidsson in back-to-back three-setters in the quarters and semis and showing that fight one more time in Sunday's final, grinding out a 62 46 75 victory over the No.1 seed, Samantha Stosur.
With the No.3-seeded Wozniacki leading 62 43, Stosur came alive with five straight games, taking the second set and building a 2-0 lead in the third; she even extended that lead in the decider to 3-1, but the former World No.1 - now ranked No.11 - was as rock solid as she was when she topped the charts.
"I think both of us played very good tennis out there," Wozniacki said of the final. "Sam has been playing well and I knew it wasn't going to be easy, and it could have gone either way at the end, but I think at the right times I played the right shots. There were a lot of key moments, but they just went my way."
"Part of the pressure Caroline puts you under is making you have to hit the ball well and close to the lines - that's actually what I always try to do, but against her you have to do it even better," Stosur said. "I got myself into quite a hole early in the match. I managed to turn it around, and by the third it could have gone either way, but I think I was in too much of a hole to be allowed to get out."
Though she won't be at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Wozniacki put it all in perspective. "You definitely want to play Istanbul - there's no doubt that's one of the goals at the beginning of the year," she said. "But sometimes that just doesn't happen. That's sport sometimes, and I hope to be back there again."
It may sound odd given she's a former No.1 player in the world, but given her play in Moscow this past week, Wozniacki is definitely one to watch in 2013.
The Dane won her 20th WTA title in Moscow, the fourth active player to get that many (after Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova). The breakdown of those 20 is impressive: 13 Premiers, seven Internationals.
Like Wozniacki, Stosur was able to put her week in perspective, too.
"Even though I lost, making a final is still a good achievement," she said. "It's disappointing not to walk away with a title this year, having done so the last couple of years, but I made it to two finals and had a lot of other good opportunities, so it's still a good year, and I'll use it to motivate myself in 2013."
Stosur will go to Istanbul tonight as she is the first alternate at the season-ending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012.