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Creeping Up on Number One: Wozniacki Clenches Tokyo Title

After a poor showing in the first set, Caroline Wozniacki, the world number two, rallied to capture the trophy at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.  Wozniacki defeated Elena Dementieva, the seventh seed, 1-6,6-2,6-3 for her fifth title of the season.

With two winners, Dementieva opened the match with triple break point.  Despite Wozniacki getting to deuce, the Russian forced the errors to secure the break.  After easily consolidating, as Wozniacki’s backhand sailed long, Dementieva had double break point.  Dementieva capitalized when her opponent’s forehand traveled long.  Subsequent to a double break lead for 4-0, Dementieva took another game off Wozniacki to seal the set.

Since Dementieva got 94% of her first serves in play and with Wozniacki committing eleven errors while failing to connect on a single winner, a comfortable victory looked to be in store for the Russian.  Yet, when Dementieva sent a backhand down the line wide, the Dane had her first break point.  Although Dementieva bagged the game, Wozniacki telegraphed the message that she was not willing to fold.  Subsequent to her first comfortable hold, with Dementieva ahead 40-0, Wozniacki struck a forehand crosscourt winner, her first of the match, which turned out to be her wake up call.  By provoking two additional miscues from Dementieva, Wozniacki leveled the game at deuce.  Later, with a backhand crosscourt winner, Wozniacki obtained another break point and converted.  Next, thanks to Wozniacki’s mistakes, Dementieva had double break point.  However, the Dane recovered and extended her lead to 3-1.  With Dementieva serving at 2-4 and deuce, Wozniacki screamed while the ball was in the air thinking it would touch long. But, the stroke found the court.  Still, Dementieva was awarded the point because the umpire viewed Wozniacki’s outburst as a hindrance.  Disagreeing with the ruling, Wozniacki asked to chat with the supervisor; nonetheless, the call stood.  After dismissing the incident from her mind, Wozniacki pushed Dementieva into mistakes and stole the game for a 5-2 edge.  Then, the world number two closed out the second set and forced a third for the championship.

In the decisive set, a forehand winner gave Wozniacki her third break point in the third game.  Wozniacki made good when Dementieva dumped her backhand into the net.  Albeit, the lead was short-lived because Dementieva quickly equalized the set at 2 a piece.  A few games on, a Dementieva flub handed Wozniacki break point.  As a result of Dementieva backhand misfiring, Wozniacki pocketed the break for 4-3.  After readily consolidating, with a forehand crosscourt winner and a double fault donation from Dementieva, Wozniacki arrived at double championship point.  The Dane secured the title when Dementieva threw in her fourth double fault of the day.

In some respects, the match was similar to Pilot Pen semifinals whereby Wozniacki surrendered the first set 1-6 but edged out Dementieva in a third set tiebreaker.  After prevailing for her eleventh career prize, Wozniacki expressed that she was thrilled since Dementieva was “playing really well [in the first set] and didn’t let me in. . . [in the second set] I stepped it up . . .and with two close sets, I am happy standing here as the winner”.  With regards to the disputed call in the second set,  Wozniacki stated “I didn’t agree with the umpire, [but] I had to move on from there . . . The difference in the end was that I won the important points, [kept] fighting and [was] focused”.

With Serena Williams still sidelined by a foot injury and out of competition the next two weeks, Wozniacki could overtake her at number one.  Nevertheless, when asked whether this was in her thoughts, Wozniacki replied “I don’t look at the rankings too much.  I focus on winning tournaments, although it’s been [my] dream to be number one”.  Depending on her results at the upcoming events, Wozniacki has an excellent chance of realizing that dream.

For Maria Sharapova, the defending champion, Tokyo was gravely disappointing.  Sharapova was ousted in the first round by Kimiko Date Krumm and will slide significantly from number 15.  Jelena Jankovic, the third seed and finalist in 2009, was knocked out by Kaia Kanepi in the third round. Samantha Stosur, the fourth seed, also suffered an early second round exit.   Dementieva stopped second seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals.  Regardless, that showing was adequate for Zvonareva to book a spot in the Sony Ericsson championships at year’s end.

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