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Wozniacki storms into final

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

Caroline Wozniacki ended Garbine Muguruza’s honeymoon as world No. 1 in clinical fashion with a 6-2, 6-0 win on Saturday to book her place in the Toray Pan Pacific Open final against unseeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Wimbledon champion Muguruza went into this week’s tournament in Tokyo fresh from becoming the first Spanish woman to top the rankings since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1995, but ran into a determined figure in world No. 3 Wozniacki.

The Dane jumped straight on Muguruza to rack up a 3-0 lead in the first set at Ariake Colosseum, before allowing her opponent only six points in a second-set demolition to wrap up the match in exactly an hour.

Wozniacki now has the chance to claim the Pan Pacific title for a third time on Sunday when she faces world No. 23 Pavlyuchenkova, who beat former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4 in the day’s first semifinal.

“Obviously I didn’t go out for the match thinking this was going to be the scoreline, but you never know how the match is going to go,” said Wozniacki, who evened her career record against Muguruza to 3-3.

“I think there are some tournaments where you just feel good and you do well almost every year. This is one of them. The court fits me well and I think the people here cheer for me extra hard so that helps.”

Muguruza looked sluggish as Wozniacki fired three aces past her without reply, but the 23-year-old denied that her new status as the 24th woman to hold the top world ranking affected her performance.

“Today I didn’t feel that fresh,” said Muguruza, who also lost to Wozniacki in the 2014 Pan Pacific semifinals. “During the long rallies I was struggling a little bit. I felt my energy was a little bit low. But I think she played a good match and I didn’t make the important shots in the important moments, so it went her way very fast.

“No matter what ranking I am or Caroline is, it doesn’t really matter because it’s always going to be difficult,” she continued. “The ranking doesn’t make me feel a favorite in this match. I think it was going to be a battle. At the end she played very well. No, I don’t feel like I should win every tournament I go in.”

Pavlyuchenkova, who had never been beyond the last 16 in seven previous visits to Tokyo, steamrolled seventh seed Kerber in a first set that lasted less than 20 minutes before establishing a commanding 5-2 lead in the second.

World No. 14 Kerber came back from the brink to win a tiebreaker and even the match at one set each, before the German moved a step closer to her second Pan Pacific final after taking a 3-0 lead in the decisive third set.

But Pavlyuchenkova had the last word, winning five straight games to retake control before closing the match out with a meaty backhand volley.

“It was a really tough match today, another three-setter and long,” said Pavlyuchenkova, who has played three sets in every round this week in Tokyo and began Saturday’s match having spent more than an hour and a half longer on the court than Kerber.

“I’ve had really tough opponents this week and Angelique is a former world No. 1, so you expect this kind of match with her. She’s such a great fighter and I’m glad that I stayed mentally strong.”

Kerber took a medical timeout for an arm injury after finally winning her first game to make it 2-1 in the second set. The German returned looking far livelier, but was unable to take her fightback all the way to the finish.

“I don’t know about my arm,” she said. “We will see, but I could play until the end so I hope it’s not so serious. In the first set I think I was completely not in my rhythm and not in my game. I didn’t start very well but I tried to turn it around and I won the second set.

“I think we just played a little bit up and down, both of us. She won the last point so of course I will try to take the positive things and try to learn from the match and try to do it better next time.”

Wozniacki holds a 5-1 career record over Pavlyuchenkova going into Sunday’s final.

“She’s been playing very well, very aggressive today, and went for her shots,” said Wozniacki. “It’s going to be very difficult but I’m just happy to be in the final again here and I’ll try it one step further.”

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