NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Three-time defending champion Caroline Wozniacki kept her unbeaten streak at Yale alive, topping Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (2), 6-3 in the semifinals of the New Haven Open, the final WTA tuneup before next week’s U.S. Open.
Wozniacki, who is now 16-0 during her four years at the tournament, got a kiss from her boyfriend, golfer Rory McIlroy, on court after the match.
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She will play Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska in Saturday’s final, which has been moved to 1 p.m. from 5 p.m. in an effort to avoid the effects of Hurricane Irene.
Cetkovska, ranked No. 40, upset French Open champion Li Na in a dramatic third-set tiebreak 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (9) earlier Friday to reach her first WTA final.
Wozniacki trailed 4-2 early against the third-seeded Italian but won an entertaining rally to break back and tie the first set at 5-5.
After Schiavone made a backhand volley that spun back toward the net, Wozniacki hit a drop shop, which Schiavone reached and lobbed over the Danish star’s head. But Wozniacki raced back and somehow managed to return the shot. When Schiavone hit her smash long, Wozniacki pumped her fist and Schiavone tossed her racket in the air.
“I was just like, OK, you need to get it as high over the net as possible because otherwise you lost the point already,” Wozniacki said. “I already thought I lost it a few times. Yeah, then somehow I saw it was going in. OK, I’m back in the point here. It was a pretty important one because it was a break point for 5-all. It was good to get that one.”
Wozniacki then dominated the tiebreak and broke Schiavone twice in the second set, including in the final game.
“When I catch my chance and I play my play, (it’s) good,” Schiavone said. “It’s tennis. You don’t take it, and she take. That’s the difference between being No. 1, I think, and being where you are.”
The Yale football team, which has had a tradition of coming to Wozniacki’s matches since she spoke at a team practice in 2009, came down to celebrate with her after the match, along with McIlroy, who was wearing a Yale jersey.
“It’s funny. It’s a good tradition to have, having the Yale football team there sitting in the back supporting,” she said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll make it to their practice this time. That’s also a tradition that we usually keep up. But it’s great. I love it.”
Wozniacki, the No. 1 ranked player in the world and top seed at next week’s Open, gave fans a scare when she came out for the second set with her right thigh wrapped. But she said it was just a minor strain and will not affect her play.
“I did it for protection because I started feeling it a little bit in my groin,” she said. “But it was more so it didn’t get worse. I just wanted to wrap it up and make sure it didn’t get worse.”
Cetkovska won her fifth match point in a match that lasted over 2 hours, 40 minutes. She led 3-1 in the second set and 3-0 in the third and said a case of nerves allowed Li back into the match. The 26-year-old Czech double-faulted while serving for the match to make it 5-5 and failed to convert three times on match point in the tiebreak.
“I was really stressed,” she said. “It was really difficult for me to control my movements. The hand, the legs, everything was slowed down. It’s life. It’s tennis. There are a lot of emotions. But I’m really happy in the end that I could have fight with my emotions and be able to win this match.”
Li failed to hold serve in the first game of each set and found herself fighting from behind the entire match. The Chinese star, ranked No. 7, failed to convert on two match points of her own in the tiebreak.
“I think today’s serve was like the worst ever,” she said. “I mean, no first serve.”
In the tiebreak Cetkovska took an early 3-1 lead, but Li won four of the next five points, and the two went back and forth from there.
Li double-faulted on her serve to give Cetkovska a 9-8 lead. But for the third time in the tiebreak, Cetkovska couldn’t close it out, sending a hard forehand volley into the net.
Li ended the next rally with a shot that was just long, and Cetkovska finally took advantage.
She handled Li’s serve cleanly with a hard return and when Li’s volley sailed long and wide, Cetkovska let out a loud scream and threw her arms into the air.
The win was Cetkovska’s seventh at the tournament, a streak that includes three qualifying wins and victories over the tournament’s fifth, fourth and second seeds.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m really happy about it. If somebody told me that before this tournament, I don’t think I would believe it. But since the beginning, I really like the conditions and I was just happy to play every single match.”
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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