SINGAPORE - Three times this summer, Caroline Wozniacki attempted to get the better of good friend Serena Williams. Three times she came up short.
After two hours of twists and turns at the Singapore Sports Hub on Saturday, it looked like Wozniacki’s time had finally come. Leading 4-1 in the third set tie-break, victory beckoned. Her grip on proceedings seemed to tighten on the next point when Williams struck a forehand that crashed into the tape.
But rather than nestle into the net or spring up invitingly for a routine winner, the ball dropped dead on the Dane’s side of the court. On such moments matches are won and lost. Four points later she was two match points down.
While she fended off the danger temporarily, there was to be no denying Williams, who brought up another opportunity with an ace out wide. This time Wozniacki had no answer.
“I just kept thinking, if I lose I get to go home and if I win I get to stay in front of this amazing crowd,” Williams told on-court interviewer Andrew Krasny after her 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) victory. “When I lost the first set I heard so many people behind me and it’s the only reason I was able to pull through."
During the round robin stage, Williams suffered a heavy defeat to Simona Halep, and for the first half hour or so against Wozniacki another humbling experience looked on the cards.
Having won just two games in the first set, Williams, seemingly through pure force of will, raised her game for the second, breaking Wozniacki's serve for the first time with a ferocious return, before repeating the trick a few games later to level the match.
The third set lasted longer than the first two combined as the players ran themselves into the ground. For once, it looked like Wozniacki would be the one left standing, winning a 26-shot rally to fend off a break point, then breaking Williams in the ninth game to lead 5-4.
However, she was unable to serve it out the match as the World No.1 dragged herself back from the brink once more to stay on course for a third straight WTA Finals title.
“Caroline played a great match, it was really difficult today and I felt really bad because she’s so amazing and so nice and in this tournament she really deserved to win,” Williams added. “So just congrats to her and thank you for playing so well and making it such a great match.”