By Jane Voigt
October 25, 2014 — Serena Williams is well known for her serving prowess.
Best in the women’s game, most tennis pundits have called it.
Today, in her semifinal match against Caroline Wozniacki at the WTA Finals, the American icon Williams used her serve as a sword to cut through and cut off any hopes her friend Caroline had of winning the match and advancing to her first end-of-year final. Depending on which side of the net your fan-heart rests, Williams’ use of her best asset left you jumping up and down with joy, or sunk in a couch like a pouting child.
But it just wasn’t Williams’ serve that robbed Wozniacki of this win, her first of the week. It was Caroline herself that facilitated her loss to Serena, 26 63 76(6).
With the match on her racquet in the third, 5-4, Wozniacki retreated behind the baseline, revisiting a defensive stance that was not the winning tactic she’d used throughout the match. Fans had witnessed an aggressive Wozniacki, one not afraid of swinging out, taking risks, really pressuring Serena even though one primal scream silenced the entire audience.
Wozniacki had another break point in the very next game. Then another on Serena’s first match point.
Fittingly, their match ended in a tiebreak. The ultimate challenge. A risky realm that no smart player wants to enter.
Wozniacki went up 4-1. The sun was about to rise on her horizon.
Serena ran off 3 points, then another and another, dousing Caro’s dreams.
Match point #2 for Williams. Wozniacki saved it, Serena’s two aces — at 198 and 194 km/h — got her to 6-5, stinging the Dane.
Wozniacki’s courage and hard-as-nails will evened the tiebreak to 6-6, though,as she saved the 3rd match point. However Williams’ 12th ace, her last, brought her to the 4th match point. The last of the match.
Serena didn’t scream or do a dance around the court. Her fanfare was concealed in her heart. She knew what a disappointment the loss must have been for her friend, who she had spent the previous night with at a Mariah Carey concert.
“I didn’t feel great about it,” Serena said, as reported by Tennis Panorama on Twitter. “She is like my little sister, from a different father and mother … from a different country.”
Wozniacki won more points than Williams — 91-87 — for the semifinal. She smothered Serena in the first set, as the apparent heir to the Billie Jean King trophy stumbled and fretted, and smashed a racquet to bits in utter despair.
“I don’t know how many times I hit it,” she told the press, Angelica Fratini of Matchpoint wrote on Twitter. “That racquet will never do my wrong again, I tell you.”
Not until the second set, when Williams won 92% and 80% of points on her first and second serves, did she step off the dark path she walked. “I had a good warmup and I wanted to have a really good start, but it just wasn’t happening,” Williams admitted, Sports Illustrated reported.
Wozniacki’s discouragement was apparent, as she left the arena quickly with no fan recognition.
“This really sucks,” Wozniacki said, again Sports Illustrated reported. “Being so close and sill losing, it really sucks. I told Serena, ‘Quite frankly, I’m tired of losing to you. I love you, but stay away from the other side of the court.’”
Wozniacki has nothing to be ashamed about. She blanketed the week with straight-set wins, the only player to accomplish that. She also defeated 3 top-ten women: Maria Sharapova (No. 2), Agnieszka Radwanska (No. 3), and Petra Kvitova (No. 6). And, she came within a hair of de-throning the Queen of the courts, 18-time Grand Slam champion.
Perhaps the prize money will revive Caroline “Sunshine” Wozniacki’s attitude. She will bank $606,000 USD, plus 690 ranking points.
Serena enters her 3rd-straight final tomorrow, where she’ll vie for a 3rd consecutive title. No one has been able to do that since Monica Seles.