Dubai // Caroline Wozniacki, who will recapture the WTA Tour's world No 1 ranking tomorrow, reached her first Dubai Tennis Championships final at the Aviation Club yesterday after her opponent Jelena Jankovic failed to capitalise on four set-points in the first set.
The Dane triumphed 7-5, 6-3, but it could have been a different story had Jankovic been able to close out the opening set while leading 5-3.
At 40-0 and serving for the set, Jankovic appeared to be coasting, but the 20-year-old Wozniacki showed all the obstinacy expected of the game's top-ranked female and battled back from the brink to break.
Meanwhile, the world No 8 went to pieces and was broken once more in the 11th game to allow Wozniacki to serve for the set.
"I had those set points and I kind of rushed a little bit; I didn't really take my time and play those points," Jankovic said. "It was tough. I had a lot of opportunities in that first set and I kind of let them slip away. At the end of the day, she was better; she was just too solid."
Said Wozniacki: "I just kept fighting.
"I actually had a good feeling going into the match, even though I started off a little bit slower. She started well and I made a few mistakes, but then I actually felt like I started to hit the ball really well. I was thinking, 'OK, if she wins this match, [she's] just too good, because I'm starting to feel this right now. I have a feeling this is going to be a long one.'"
Jankovic requested a medical timeout early in the second set as the strain of having played longer matches this week caught up with her. In the fifth game, she double-faulted and was forced to save two break points, but having pulled it back to 40-40 was unable to hold off the energy of Wozniacki's powerful return strokes.
"I stayed back at times and let her come back into the points," Jankovic said.
"The longer the points went, she had the advantage because she was more fresh. I spent more time on court the past couple of days, so I was a little bit tired out there and had some blisters."
Wozniacki, the top seed here and a 2009 US Open finalist, will meet the Russian player, Svetlana Kuznetsova, in this evening's final as she searches for her first title of 2011 and her 13th career victory. But, having won six titles last season, she said she will continue to focus only on the task at hand.
"It feels good," she said. "I mean, after my semi-final loss in the Australian Open [to Li Na], it's great to have this first tournament back and see me smiling again.
"When you begin the year, you never know. You never know if you're going to win any tournaments, how the season is going to be. Even though the last season was great, you know, the new year is a new year. You just want to start well."