SINGAPORE: Serena Williams will get a chance to avenge a humiliating loss against Simona Halep after they both advanced to the championship match of the season-ending WTA Finals with victories in contrasting style on Saturday.
Williams beat Caroline Wozniacki in a thrilling contest 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) to remain on course for a third-straight title, while Halep swept aside Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-2 to put herself in a position for the biggest title of her career.
Wozniacki served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but Williams broke back and prevailed in the tiebreaker on her third match point after trailing 4-1.
It was a bittersweet win for Williams, who has developed a close off-court friendship with Wozniacki. She said only matches against her sister Venus had previously created such mixed feelings.
“It was the first match I didn’t feel great if you take Venus out of the equation where I wasn’t happy after I won,” Williams said.
“I really wanted to cry because Caro is so nice, we get along and we do so much together. She’s like my little baby sister, from a different mother, and father, and different country.”
Williams now boasts a 10-1 career record against Wozniacki, but like twice before this year the American had to come back from a set down to beat the Dane.
Again, Williams made a slow start, taking only three points off Wozniacki’s serve in the opening set and the frustration overwhelmed the American. After the seventh game, she repeatedly smashed her racket into the court, bringing a warning from the chair umpire.
“I don’t know how many times I hit it but, boy, that racket will never do me wrong again I tell you,” Williams said. “It was definitely legendary. I kind of lost my cool a little bit.”
Wozniacki, who had a perfect 3-0 record in the group stage, took the opening set in 26 minutes and held serve to open the second.
“I really thought she was going to win because she was playing so well,” Williams said. “She had a whole new strategy. I finally was able to kind of figure it out in the second and then I just was able to play better.”
“It clicked today. I thought ‘Ha! I got you now.’”
The momentum had shifted and, three games later, Williams created her first break points of the match, converting to take a grip on the set, which ended on Wozniacki’s double fault.
The third set went on serve until the ninth game when Wozniacki made the first break. She served for the match, but fell behind 0-30 and though she saved one break point, she couldn’t save the second.
Williams survived one break point to go up 6-5. Wozniacki then held serve under intense pressure in the 12th game, saving one match point in a dramatic rally.
She started the tiebreaker confidently, but the relentless Williams wore her down with powerful serves and groundstrokes.
Radwanska took only four points off Halep’s first serve for the match, which was over in just 67 minutes.
The irony of Sunday’s final is that Williams only qualified for the semifinals because Halep dropped a set in her final group match against Ana Ivanovic. Had the already-qualified Halep won that match in straight sets, Ivanovic would have made the semifinals at Williams’ expense.