x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Caroline Wozniacki secures Dubai Tennis Championships

Dane lifts trophy as she celebrates return to the world No 1 spot.

Caroline Woziacki of Denmark.
Caroline Woziacki of Denmark.

DUBAI // So long as the celebrations did not run too late and Caroline Wozniacki awakes before noon, the sunrise salutation of “Good morning” today will likely have never rung so true for the 20-year-old Dane. Her first title of the season arrived last night; complemented at dawn by the official WTA world No1 ranking.

Following a convincing and conclusive 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Wozniacki secured her 13th title on Tour and ensured her opponent suffered a trio of final defeats at the Aviation Club.

“It feels amazing,” said Wozniacki, who did not drop a set at any stage during the week. “I came a week early to prepare and I felt really good out there. I was hitting the ball clean and I stayed aggressive; I knew I had to because if she dictates, she is too strong. ”

Kuznetsova had said the previous evening that she would have to be at her absolute best if she was to have any chance of avoiding defeats similar to that which she suffered in the 2004 and 2008 finals. She was, she said, well aware Wozniacki would be in no mood to forfeit a potential first title of the year.

Yet for all her talk, the first set came and went with a whimper.

Wozniacki started confidently, forcing Kuznetsova around the court and no doubt enjoying the sight of the Russian’s rapid backhands failing to find their target and falling outside the lines. When 25-year-old Kuznetsova lost her first service game, it was primarily courtesy of a double fault that left her facing two breakpoints. And it was a harbinger of what was to come.

She broke back immediately, but appeared to go to pieces with her forehand running wild and wide as Wozniacki strengthened her advantage.

The 20-year-old displayed her defensive qualities from the baseline to break her opponent twice more and comfortably take the first set, but this was more about Kuznetsova overcooking groundstrokes than it was about Wozniacki living up to her top billing.

By the end of the sixth game, the two-time major winner had already racked up 13 unforced errors.

“I made too many mistakes,” Kuznetsova said afterwards. “For me it is frustrating because I didn’t play my good game. If I had played my good game, it would have been different. I am actually enjoying how I am playing, but I didn’t play to my ability. That is why I am disappointed.”

In the second set it appeared neither player could hold serve, with the first three games all witnessing breaks, but again it was individual mistakes from Kuznetsova that saw Wozniacki take a 3-1 lead.

The woman who had looked unplayable at times against Flavia Pennetta in the semi-finals was gone, replaced instead by a woman short on confidence at the baseline and reluctant to get close to the net.

The lacklustre performance of Kuznetsova, a former world No 2, was epitomised when, having slipped to 40-0 and on the verge of going 5-2 behind, her backhand from the baseline went almost two metres wide of the inner tramline. She banged the racket against her own head in frustration – which she could have and should have also done moments later instead of striking a ball viciously into the space between line umpire and ball boy.

The Monaco-based right-hander improved as the set neared its climax, but it was irrelevant as Wozniacki closed it out to claim her first title since the Beijing Open in October.

“It is always great to win titles,” Wozniacki said. “I love to win and I really do not like losing, that is why I always try to come up with the right answer to win the match. It is a great feeling; I know I am playing well and the hard work is paying off, so I am really pleased.”

Wozniacki said she planned to quietly celebrate last night with friends and would, perhaps, treat herself to a desert over dinner, safe in the knowledge, of course, that a particularly good morning would see her awake once more as the world No 1.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae