Top two are the last pair standing
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.