Courtesy The News International
TOKYO: Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki produced a spirited fightback to beat fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 and reach the Pan Pacific Open final on Saturday.
Awaiting the Dane in Sunday´s Tokyo final will be Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka, who continued her fairytale run with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Ukraine´s Elina Svitolina.
Wozniacki, Pan Pacific champion six years ago, starts favourite as she goes in search of a 24th career title.
But she had to claw her way back from 3-1 down in both the second and third sets against Radwanska, finally ending the Pole´s resistance on her fourth match point by forcing her into a loose forehand she dumped tamely into the net.
At times it wasn´t pretty, but Wozniacki´s gritty display will give her confidence a further lift after battling back from a wretched run of injuries this year to reach the US Open semi-finals earlier this month.
“It´s good to be back,” she told reporters after almost three hours on court.
“It´s always a grind when you´re injured to come back but you have to go with it. My body feels good and it´s nice the hard work is paying off.”
Wozniacki had seen her world ranking plunge to 74th after suffering wrist and ankle trouble, her father even telling a Danish tabloid the 26-year-old could walk away from tennis.
“I was just fighting to get healthy again and that´s that really,” she said, brushing off retirement talk. “I´m in the final here and that´s all I´m thinking about now.”
Despite coughing up the first set on a double fault, Wozniacki showed glimpses of her old form in an error-strewn match featuring 13 breaks of serve.
A whipped crosscourt forehand to take the initiative at 4-3 in the decider left Radwanska shaking her head and a full-blooded backhand drive to consolidate the break in the next game demonstrated why she used to be such a force.
Wozniacki, who carried her nation´s flag at this summer´s Rio Olympics, is looking to maintain her streak of having won a title in every year since 2008.
Osaka reached her first WTA final after recovering from a poor start against Svitolina, smashing her racquet on the court as her opponent ran away with the first set.
But the 18-year-old, born of a Japanese mother and Haitian father, roared back and closed out proceedings with an acrobatic volley down the middle of the court.