Top two are the last pair stand­ing

Sunday News - - SPORT - MARVIN FRANCE

AF­TER a frus­trat­ing week that has tested ev­ery­one’s pa­tience, fans and or­gan­is­ers alike have been re­warded with the best pos­si­ble fi­nal at the ASB Clas­sic.

The tour­na­ment’s top two seeds, Caro­line Woz­ni­acki and Ju­lia Go­erges, were the last two play­ers stand­ing yes­ter­day af­ter both came through a gru­elling sched­ule to book their place in to­day’s de­cider.

Forced to play the quar­ter­fi­nals and semi­fi­nals on the same day af­ter the Thurs­day and Fri­day ses­sions were rained out, Woz­ni­acki over­came a huge scare in her last eight match against wild­card Sofia Kenin be­fore see­ing off a re­silient chal­lenge from Amer­i­can qual­i­fier Sachia Vick­ery, 6-4 6-4.

‘‘It was tough,’’ Woz­ni­acki said. ‘‘I felt a lit­tle tired go­ing into the sec­ond match and then I started re­ally well I thought it was go­ing to be a good day at the office.

‘‘Then all of a sud­den I felt more tired, it was harder to get to the cor­ners and I just re­ally had to dig deep and stay fo­cused.

‘‘She played re­ally well, she picked it up and got a lot of balls back but I just had to stay ag­gres­sive.’’

Go­erges, mean­while, con­tin­ued her march through the bot­tom half of the draw, over­pow­er­ing Su-Wei Hsieh 6-1 6-4 fol­low­ing a straight sets win against Polona Hercog.

Woz­ni­acki and Go­erges have eas­ily been the best two play­ers all week, pick­ing up where they left off af­ter fin­ish­ing 2017 as two of the form play­ers in the world.

And the fi­nal presents a golden chance for one of two long-time vis­i­tors to Auck­land to fi­nally leave with the tro­phy.

‘‘It’s go­ing to be a tough match to­mor­row but I’m ex­cited for the chal­lenge,’’ Woz­ni­acki added. ‘‘It’s a great lead-up for me to the Aus­tralian Open. I feel good about my game and my body and feel like I’m where I want to be right now ten­nis-wise.’’

Woz­ni­acki, who is mak­ing her fifth ap­pear­ance in Auck­land and lost the 2015 fi­nal to Venus Wil­liams, played some ex­cep­tional ten­nis ear­lier in the week.

But a two-day break in the mid­dle of a tour­na­ment rarely hap­pens at this level.

She was one of sev­eral play­ers who strug­gled to find her rhythm as play fi­nally got un­der way.

The world No 3 dropped her first set of the week to Kenin be­fore her ex­pe­ri­ence shone through in a tense third set to win 4-6 6-2 6-4.

Com­pound­ing mat­ters for the play­ers, in­ter­mit­tent show­ers caused sev­eral de­lays through­out the day.

Go­erges, who looked the most com­fort­able out of ev­ery­one on court, spoke of the men­tal re­silience re­quired to deal with con­stant breaks in play.

‘‘It’s never easy hav­ing those mo­ments be­cause you have to keep the mo­men­tum and be fresh for the next point but you don’t know when it’s go­ing to hap­pen,’’ she said.

‘‘Even though both matches were straight sets (wins) it was not easy and men­tally I was very proud of the way I han­dled all those sit­u­a­tions.’’

Af­ter win­ning back-to-back ti­tles in Rus­sia and China to fin­ish 2017, Go­erges has now racked up 12 wins on the trot to reach a ca­reer-high rank­ing of No 14.

She says she has never played bet­ter in her life.

In her ninth con­sec­u­tive ap­pear­ance in Auck­land, the 2016 fi­nal­ist may never have a bet­ter chance to go all the way.

‘‘It’s my third fi­nal in a row so it’s quite a streak,’’ said Go­erges, who holds a 5-4 ad­van­tage in matches against Woz­ni­acki.’’

Mean­while, in men’s qual­i­fy­ing, all three Ki­wis fell at the first hur­dle on Satur­day.

Kiwi Ajeet Rai was never in his match against Ja­pan’s Taro Daniel, losing 6-1 6-2, while Finn Reynolds lost by the same score to Amer­i­can Tim Smy­czek.

Ru­bin Statham put up more of a fight against Slo­vakia’s Lukas Lacko but still lost in straight sets, 6-1 7-5.

Caro­line Woz­ni­acki.

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