INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - After falling behind 62 20 - and having lost their last three meetings, as well - things weren't looking so hot for Caroline Wozniacki as she faced Angelique Kerber in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday night. But she turned the heat up just when she needed to, pulling out a 26 64 75 win to reach the final of the Premier event - her third final there in four years.
For over two and a half hours the No.4-seeded Kerber and No.8-seeded Wozniacki were grinding it out under the lights, mixing in long, extended rallies from the baseline with huge backhands and sharp angles - their shot variety was impressive to say the least. But the determination in Wozniacki's eyes was clear, and after going down the set and a break, the former World No.1 was on a clear mission.
"I had a game plan when I went into the match and felt I was doing the right things - I was missing by just a little bit," Wozniacki said of the slow start. "Even if I played great shots, she came back and made a good counter and really played well. So I just kept my head cool and tried to hang in there."
And what were those right things? "I knew I had to keep staying close to the baseline, mix it up a little bit, also play it high to her backhand sometimes and just wait for the right time to go and attack."
From 62 20 down Wozniacki won 10 of the next 13 games to take the second set and build a 4-1 lead in the third. Kerber got back on serve and stayed even with Wozniacki through 5-all, but some sharp shooting from the Dane - and a few untimely errors from the German - led to a Wozniacki victory.
"I just took it as it came - I was trying to figure out a way to win," Wozniacki said. "It doesn't really matter how. It's just important to win the points, basically. I felt like I played some good points.
"It's a game of chess out there - if you play it here, you expect it here. 'Wait, is it short? Okay, go in and attack. Is it deep? You need to play deep back because you don't want her to attack.' It's a game of chess - it's a game of finding out where is the toughest for the opponent to get to the ball."
This is Wozniacki's third final at Indian Wells in the last four years - she was runner-up in 2010, won the title in 2011 and is now through to the 2013 final. So what is it about the event she likes so much?
"I really enjoy this tournament - I think it shows," Wozniacki said. "It's everything. I think the court suits me very well. I like that it goes fast through the air but it's a pretty slow court. So I feel like I get out of the ball what I want; but at the same time, I feel like I get to a lot of balls. To have that mix is good. And the crowd is amazing. Weather is nice. It's very chill. Staying in a house. All of those things."
Wozniacki has 20 career WTA titles, and this would be her equal-biggest title - she already has two Premier Mandatory titles to her name, at Beijing in 2010 and right here in Indian Wells in 2011.
Meanwhile, Kerber was so close to winning - she won one less point than Wozniacki, 100 to 101.
"At the end I think she won the important points," Kerber said. "It was a tough match from the beginning - I started very well, but she found her game in the second set. She really started playing better then.
"It's not easy to lose like this, but well done to her. Now it's onto the next tournament for me."