Auckland has it’s “dream final” on Saturday when former No. 1 Venus Williams takes on former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.
The Woz is hoping to capitalize on her stellar play at the end of last year and win a first Grand Slam title in 2015. Venus is hoping to prove she can again be a regular title factor while dealing with the energy-sapping Sjogren’s syndrome.
For Woz, who has lost all five career meetings with Venus (without winning a set!), it is a chance to show that her challenges to Serena in 2014 weren’t just a matter of friends-giving-friends games. Has she returned to her world No. 1 days when she balanced being an errorless backboard with taking advantage of aggressive opportunities during points? Of is she back to slicing forehands and hoping her opponent misses, a only-slightly-better Aggie Radwanska?
The week has been a great effort for Venus, but the American hasn’t been tested — at all. She has averaged losing fewer than four games per match this week, strolling into the final.
Wozniacki meanwhile probably should have lost to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the semis. Her big-hitting opponent had her on the brink of defeat before failing to close it out 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Venus plays the same big-hitting game, but knows how to close out matches.
If the Dane can stretch it to three sets, her chances will increase dramatically as Venus’ fitness, or lack of, will come to the forefront. How fit is she? Can she go the distance if the Woz can stretch out the points and turn it into a marathon?
“She’s obviously a tough competitor,” Wozniacki said of Venus. “She’s played really well this week — very aggressive, serving well, taking the ball early — it won’t be easy, but I’m looking forward to it.”
If anyone can challenge Serena this year for No. 1 it will likely come from the top flight of Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep, or the second tier of Petra Kvitova (if she can overcome her erratic play and injuries) or Genie Bouchard (if the Canadian can handle the top-player pressure).
Both former No. 1s, can the Woz or Venus threaten the top spot again? A title to begin the year in Week #1 sure doesn’t hurt the confidence.
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