Making up for her defeat last year, Caroline Wozniacki made up for a couple of slow starts to edge Aryna Sabalenka for a second Eastbourne title at the Nature Valley International. Nerves were evident from both players from the start with a long service game for the Dane and plenty of traded breaks.
Sabalenka might come to rue her set point chances as she had the chance to strike first and perhaps that cost her – letting Wozniacki back into the match, the Dane does not need a second invitation, as Wozniacki served out the first set to love.
If we thought nerves would be settled for the second set, we were wrong as the first three breaks were breaks of serve before Sabalenka held. With the crowd warming to the young Belarusian, she lost her edge to give Wozniacki another chance to level up, as the pair traded one more set of breaks before a second-set tie-break.
For a short while it looked as though Sabalenka was going to make it another three-setter, taking the lead in the tie-break at 5-3 but experience won out in the end. The World No. 2 claimed her 29th career title, and perhaps sets herself up with the perfect preparation to break her fourth=-round curse at Wimbledon for the first time.
She knew she was facing a player with lot of confidence, and to be honest not many signs of fatigue after playing five three-set matches.
Wozniacki said: “I watched her a little bit during the week and knew she was going to come out and play aggressive, so I was ready for it.
“I knew she was going to try and keep it up. Whether she was missing or hitting it in the court and hitting some great shots, I knew she was going to just go for it, because that was her way, you know, that she thought maybe she can win this match.
“And she’s not going to win the match just by hitting the ball back. So I knew that she was going to try and do this the whole match through.”
Sabalenka had to admit that despite losing in the final, it had been a stellar week on her Eastbourne debut.
She said: “It’s good for me. I have to think about good matches before the final. It’s always tough to lose when you have some chance to, like set points or you lead in the tiebreak 5-2 and then you totally lose your game.
“But she’s a great player. Of course she’s the 2nd [in the world]. It’s good experience for me, and I hope next time, if I will have any chance like today, so I think next time I’m going to keep it.”
Keeping it in the family
By Wozniacki’s side, as always (although obviously not on court during a Slam) will be her father Victor (or Piotr, as he is also sometimes listed).
She said: “I think my dad has been there since the start, and we have always worked great together. You know, he always has my back. I think, you know, I definitely wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t there helping me. You know, I think we’re a great team. You know, sometimes we play amazing; sometimes we play less good.
“But, you know, you take the good and the bad and you just try and keep improving and do better and figure out what the next steps are. You know, I think throughout my career I think we have done a great job.”
Wozniacki, who was quick to shrug off the perennial question of whether she can progress past Manic Monday will actually start on Wimbledon First Monday, which put a dent in some of her sightseeing plans with her fiancé David Lee.
She said: “Honestly [no plans], because I play on Monday. So I’m just going to drive up there and get some stuff out of the way today so that I can relax tomorrow a little bit.”
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