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Wozniacki captures third Pan Pacific crown

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki captured the Toray Pan Pacific Open title for the third time after beating unseeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 7-5 in Sunday’s final.

Denmark’s Wozniacki, who manhandled world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals, came flying out the blocks at Ariake Coliseum with a first-set blitz that lasted just 21 minutes, before a shell-shocked Pavlyuchenkova gradually began to work her way back into the match in the second.

But world No. 6 Wozniacki stayed calmly in control to deny her opponent even a single break point all match, wrapping up victory in one hour, 14 minutes to claim her first title of the WTA season after no fewer than six runner-up finishes.

“It was my seventh final of the year and obviously after a while it becomes harder and harder to get that last one,” said Wozniacki, the tournament No. 3 seed. “But I went out there and I just stayed focused and stayed aggressive, especially in the beginning, and then I played my way.

“I’ve had a great year and I’ve won here in the past. It’s a great court and it has great memories for me, so I’m very, very happy.”

Wozniacki became the fourth player to win the Pan Pacific title three times or more, following in the footsteps of Gabriela Sabatini (three times), Martina Hingis (five) and Lindsay Davenport (four).

The Dane, who also won the title in 2010 and 2016, was rarely tested by world No. 23 Pavlyuchenkova, and landed four aces and made no double faults in a cool, measured performance.

“I can play offense and I can play defense,” said the 27-year-old Wozniacki. “I think that’s one of my strengths. There are some players that I just won’t be able to overpower and that’s OK. I’ll play my defense and get a lot of balls back and run.

“And there are players who will get very tired and I’ll try to dictate the game. That’s how I play and that’s my strength.”

Pavlyuchenkova went into the match having played three sets in every round leading up the final, and her exertions showed in an erratic display that featured five double faults and a series of shots that missed their target.

“It’s always disappointing to lose any match, no matter which round,” said the 26-year-old. “It’s even more when you are just one win away from the title but there are a lot of positives from this week.

“I felt a little bit more flat and I had less energy than in previous matches. It was way too tough and long for me and it felt like I didn’t have enough energy left. But I think I am proud of myself and I have really enjoyed playing this good tennis.”

Pavlyuchenkova fended off one match point in the 10th game of the second set, but was unable to resist two games later when she slapped a shot into the net to hand Wozniacki the title.

“She’s a very strong player,” said Wozniacki, who was playing in her 49th career final and has now won at least one title every year since 2008.

“She plays very powerfully and takes the ball early, so it was really important for me to make her move and start well, especially. In the first set everything was going my way, and in the second set she managed to serve a little bit better so it was tricky for me to break her serve. I think it was a good match for both of us.”

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