World No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki overpowered eighth seed Victoria Azarenka in an absorbing three-setter on Friday to set up a meeting with Russia’s Elena Dementieva in the final of the Pan Pacific Open.
The top-seeded Dane disposed of her Belarusian opponent 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 in a match lasting nearly three hours to reach the final of the $2 million event for the first time.
Seventh-seeded Dementieva will be looking to add to her victory in Tokyo in 2006 after beating French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 7-5 in the day’s second semifinal.
“I got the first set and the second set was real tight but Victoria played well, especially from the middle and all the way through,” said Wozniacki. “I took a break and in the third set it was a new match and I just went out there and did my best.”
Wozniacki dropped her serve in the opening game on a sun-kissed center court at Ariake Tennis Forest Park but quickly rebounded to move into a 4-1 lead before clinching the first set when Azarenka double faulted for the sixth time.
The pair twice traded breaks at the start of the second set but Wozniacki held her serve to make it 3-2 with a fabulous backhand down the line.
The 20-year-old benefited from yet another double fault to tie the second set at 6-6, but Azarenka dug in deep to win the tiebreak and the second set when Wozniacki hit her return long.
Wozniacki stormed into a 5-0 lead in the final set, eventually serving out for the match after a valiant comeback from Azarenka.
“At 5-0 I felt really good and thought the match was mine already and then Victoria just started playing really, really well and it was 5-4. It was my serve and I knew I had to close it out otherwise it’s going to be tough,” said Wozniacki.
Winning the title here coupled with a quarterfinal place or better at next week’s tournament in Beijing could see Wozniacki dislodge Serena Williams at the top of the world rankings.
Azarenka, who made 12 double faults, admitted that she had paid the price for making errors on crucial points.
Schiavone also battled bravely to try and take the second semi to three sets but Dementieva stood firm and a powerful forehand winner gave her victory and in the process avenged defeat to the Italian in the semis at Roland Garros.
“I’m just very happy to win today. It was a very difficult match,” said Dementieva. “Last time we played I lost so I was very motivated going into the match today against Francesca. I think she is a great player and this is a great experience for me. To be in the final is just amazing.”