Last year, Caroline Wozniacki was disappointed in the final of the BNP Paribas Open by Jelena Jankovic. Today, Wozniacki smiled from ear to ear as she held off Marion Bartoli 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 to capture the biggest title of her career.
Following a solid game to open the championship, Wozniacki connected with a backhand crosscourt winner to break and get a 2-0 lead.
Although Bartoli returned the favor by taking next game, Wozniacki rolled on winning the subsequent five games to pocket the first set.
The one sided scoreboard in the initial set belied the fact that Bartoli was playing very well. As usual, Wozniacki was a bulwark from the baseline tracking balls which would have been winners against most competitors.
In the second set, Bartoli mixed it up more by coming to net, using the dropshot and exposing Wozniacki’s weaker stroke, the forehand. From the get-go, Bartoli’s new strategy bore fruits.
After an ace to put a period on a tough game, Bartoli’s lob forced Wozniacki into an error. Consequently, Bartoli had her second break point opportunity of the game which she converted with a forehand winner.
Promptly, Bartoli consolidated for a 3-0 advantage. Despite not converting on another break point opportunity which would have given her a double break edge, Bartoli guarded serve for 4-1.
Later, as Wozniacki served at 2-5 to extend the second set, Bartoli induced a series of mistakes from her opponent and broke to push the match into a deciding set.
At that point, Bartoli appeared to have the upper hand. Yet, with so many grueling rallies, fatigue began to play a part in Bartoli’s game with her shots having less authority than before.
Subsequent to a backhand error on game point, Bartoli watched Wozniacki produce a backhand pass winner for a second break point. Wozniacki banked the break when Bartoli’s stroke landed long.
Once Wozniacki had consolidated, she arrived at triple break point when Bartoli netted a backhand. Still, Bartoli managed to win the following five points to remain one break behind.
With Bartoli donating two double faults, Wozniacki broke at love to move ahead by a double break at 4-1. Just when Wozniacki seemed in command, Bartoli roared back with a love break of her own and held for 3-4.
Wozniacki’s next time out was a love hold. Then, with Bartoli misfiring with a dropshot, Wozniacki had her second championship point. As Bartoli’s backhand sailed long, Wozniacki claimed the title.
Bartoli was in tears after the match explaining “Caroline you made me cry . . .out of tiredness”. Gracious in defeat, Bartoli recognized that the world number one was indeed worthy of the ranking: “I am sure you will get a grand slam pretty soon”.
To her father, Bartoli expressed her love for the lone man in her box while Wozniacki had “a full box” saying “since I was five and a half when I hit my first tennis ball [you] were there, I hope [you] will be there until the last”.
Currently at seventeen, Bartoli will bump up in the rankings. A semifinalist in Miami last year, Bartoli will hope to build on her great performance of the ultimate two weeks.
An overjoyed Wozniacki thanked Bartoli for her kind words and acknowledged today’s ferocious battle stating: “I am sorry I had to beat you . . . It’s not like football where there’s a draw”.
Wozniacki was particularly happy that “every year I come back I have more and fans here. It means so much to me”.
With her second title of the year, the first being in Dubai, Wozniacki goes into Miami with a heap of confidence.
Sony Ericsson Open defending champion Kim Clijsters retired from her fourth round match against Bartoli due to shoulder issues. Thus, for Wozniacki hanging on to the number one spot may be easier the next few weeks as these two head to South Florida.