SINGAPORE - They are best friend and opponents at the same time.
Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki know each other inside and out both on and off the court.
Everyone, it seems, lost faith in Williams after her shock second match loss to Simona Halep. For a short time, even Williams questioned her own abilities. But Wozniacki knew better. She knows that a championship player of Williams’ stock can always raise her game to that elusive “11” setting.
And that knowledge left Wozniacki absolutely gutted on Saturday as she missed an opportunity to advance to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global championship match. She emptied the tank and still fell short against her best friend, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (6).
But that’s what galls Wozniacki the most: She put every last drop of effort and talent into the match and still could not best the reigning WTA champion and World No.1.
“I just really, really wanted to be in that final. I felt like I played so well,” Wozniacki said. “But when you play Serena, even when you play your best tennis, sometimes that's not enough.”
Wozniacki steamed into the tournament on the heels of an impressive second half of the season. After clearing up personal issues she gathered momentum and captured the Istanbul tournament. Unfortunately, she ran into Williams in three straight tournaments, including Montréal (quarterfinals), Cincinnati (semifinal) and the US Open (final). Speed bumps aside, she steamed straight into Wuhan and lost to Ana Ivanovic in the final.
The deep tournament runs helped Wozniacki move steadily up the Road To Singapore standings and entered the WTA Finals playing her best tennis, as evidenced by her 3-0 White Group round robin record. During the process she defeated the No.2 player in the world, Maria Sharapova, and No. 3 Petra Kvitova.
“I mean, I played really good and I've been playing tennis on a very high level. For me to win the tournament potentially I would have beat No.1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 in the world. That doesn't happen ever, you know,” Wozniacki said. “So I beat No. 2, 3, and 6. I did that and played really well and came close to beating Serena today, so I can be very proud of myself and the way I turned the season around.
“Five months ago didn't look like I was going to be here, even though I always believed it. The way I've been playing the last five months really brings me some great momentum into next year. Gives me some confidence.”
But before Wozniacki turns her focus on preparing for the 2015 season, she has a little enterprise called the New York City Marathon to run. Training for that race has certainly helped her tennis and it will be there again for her as a tonic to soothe this loss.
“I'm diving into marathon mode as of now,” Wozniacki said. “I'm going to probably go for a little jog tomorrow, just run off some of the soreness I'm probably going to feel tomorrow. A little half-hour, 40-minute run tomorrow and stay by the pool. Then head to New York very soon. I have quite a few commitments there. “
And after New York? Rest.
“I'm not touching a racquet until November probably the 17th or something. I don't even want to see them,” she said.
Glimpsing ahead to 2015, Wozniacki rank as a favorite to return to Singapore. Despite all the challenges she’s faced, in the end, Wozniacki left the WTA Finals a better player.
“I think I can be really proud of how I've handled everything this year, how I've fought back,” Wozniacki said. “You know, I think I've proved to myself that I'm a really strong person and that I can keep improving my game. I'm just really happy that I've learned so much from this year.
"It's been a very, very meaningful year for me and very learningful. Can you say that? So, yeah, it's definitely a year that I'm going to remember. You know, I'm still going to smile, because everything happens for a reason. It's made me who I am today."