WASHINGTON, October 30, 2017 (by Michael Dickens)
After Caroline Wozniacki won the biggest title of her career when she defeated Venus Williams, 6-4, 6-4, in the WTA Finals at Singapore on Sunday evening, we learned something new from the Dane. That is, for the few tennis fans in the U.S. (myself included) who woke up early enough (where first serve on the East coast began at the breakfast hour of 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning) to watch it on beIN Sports, which doesn’t have extensive cable TV penetration throughout much of the country. Where’s ESPN or Tennis Channel when you need them!
“Eight in my lucky number, so I was hoping if I was going to beat her at least once in my career it would be today,” said the 27-year-old Wozniacki after her victory, which was her 60th of the 2017 season. That’s what we learned!
The No. 6 seed hit a pinpoint, down-the-line backhand winner on her second match point to close out the 1 hour and 29 minute final, then raised her arms in celebration and shed a tear or two. Wozniacki outpointed the fifth-seeded Williams, 68-57. “I just went out there and did my best,” she said.
Wozniacki’s best translated into her 27th career title, and it came after she had lost her first six finals of 2017. Now, by finishing the year on a high note with titles in Tokyo and Singapore, she will end 2017 ranked No. 3 in the world.
“I’m still shaking. I was up 5-0 and then Venus started upping her game,” said Wozniacki, in describing her 6-4, 5-0 lead over Williams before the American came to life. We’ve seen her crumble under pressure before. On this Sunday, it didn’t happen. “She went for her shots, started serving into my body. I’m just so happy I managed to win in the end.”
The 37-year-old Williams, who was looking to achieve a 50th career title, reached the WTA Finals as the only player who didn’t win a regular-season title despite appearing in two Grand Slam finals – the Australian Open and Wimbledon – as well as achieving a semifinal finish at the U.S. Open and the year-end final in Singapore. Coming into the championship match, she owned Wozniacki, based on her 7-0 career head-to-head. Plus, Venus won the WTA Finals title in 2008. And, yet, she wasn’t able to play her best tennis – which included hitting a forehand passing shot to win an epic break point that got her back on serve at 4-5 in the second set – until after she had dug herself in too deep to climb out.
“I’ll try to play a little better earlier next time. That might be a good plan,” said Williams, who will finish the year ranked No. 5. “I didn’t seem to come up with my best tennis until it was too late.
“I love being here, it is an honor. Only eight players get to be here and I hope to return.”
In a year in which there were four different Grand Slams winners – Serena Williams (Australia), Jelena Ostapenko (French), Garbiñe Muguruza (Wimbledon), and Sloan Stephens (U.S.) – and Simona Halep finished the year No. 1 despite not winning one, there’s some unfinished business for the former No. 1 Wozniacki. Namely, winning a Grand Slam. Maybe, 2018 will be the year for her. Not to mention, much focus will be on the return of Serena Williams, who gave birth to her first child last month, and we wonder: Can Halep maintain her grip on the No. 1 ranking?
With or without Serena, there’s plenty of good depth in the women’s game, especially when you add Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Caroline Garcia and Johanna Konta to the mix. Now, if only the WTA can find a way to keep American fans interested past the U.S. Open.
For now, I’ll leave the last word for Wozniacki: “I’m really proud of how I have played all week and how I have fought and how I really produced some great fighting out there,” she said. “To be here with the trophy means a lot, and it’s a great way to finish off the year.”
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.