Head to Head: Williams Leads 8 to 1
It’s been a strange year for both Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki.
For Williams, she remains No. 1 in the world with five titles to her credit this season. Still, it feels like an incomplete year for her. That’s due to her rather unexpected losses where she failed to reach the second week at any of the Grand Slams prior to New York. Then, there was also that bizarre incident at Wimbledon during her doubles match with sister Venus where she looked ill and out of sorts. What exactly was wrong with the younger Williams then was open to discussion, but didn’t lead to much resolution in terms of a concrete answer.
For Wozniacki, the first half of the season for her was decent, but nothing that indicated she was ready to break out of the slump she had been mired in for years. That slump, for some, was due to her ongoing relationship and then engagement with pro golfer Rory McIlroy. When McIlroy abruptly ended the pairing, Wozniacki’s future became the subject of much debate. When she acknowledged her fans’ outpouring of support on Twitter, another big fan of hers did the same.
Williams and Wozniacki, who both crashed out of the French Open early in May, went on a well-documented jaunt on the beaches of Miami, that included crashing a wedding nearby. Their friendship, especially in the competitve world of pro tennis is nothing new (think Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova) but still it can’t be easy considering both want to be the same thing – the best in the world.
This summer, on the North American hard courts, each woman enjoyed something of a rebirth. Williams, despite slow starts and several rough finishes, resumed her dominance winning two titles in Stanford and Cincinnati. Along the way, she found herself facing across the net Wozniacki who played her very close and very well in both Montreal and Cincinnati. Wozniacki didn’t win, but she showed much better form than she had in a long time. Could it be that her newly single status was the boost she needed all along?
At this year’s US Open, Williams became “Serena” again. The top seed, as many expect her to do whenever she plays, blazed through her draw without dropping a set. While the ongoing talk and expectation of Williams winning her 18th Grand Slam title, that would tie her with both Evert and Navratilova, is never far from her mind, Williams remains focused on the job at hand.
Wozniacki, though, has been a revelation. Playing with more ease, confidence and aggression that we haven’t seen, even when she was No. 1 in the world, the Dane powered through her draw. That included a bravura win over Maria Sharapova that likely ranks as her biggest win ever. Even bigger than when she beat Sharapova in the same round at the same event four years ago as the top seed. Now into her first Grand Slam final in five years, also in New York, the possibility remains enticing. If Wozniacki can beat Williams, and win her first major title, it would be one of the great comeback stories in recent years. Even at her age of 24.
“We were saying when the tournament started, we’re like, Yes, we’re in separate sides of the drawing, so hopefully we can meet in the finals. It would be great if that were to happen,” Wozniacki said on the prospect of playing Williams. “When she’s on fire, she’s hard to beat. But I have had two tough matches against her the last few weeks. I was really close. Hopefully for me that would be third time’s the charm.”
Williams echoed those thoughts after her semifinal win.
“I was just glad we weren’t on the same side of the draw this tournament. Of course we were like, That would be great if we could see each other in the final, because we both, you know, hadn’t had the greatest Grand Slam year. We were just excited to be there.”
But will it be tough for Williams to see her friend across the net?
“If I can play Venus, I can play anybody. I grew up with Venus. We actually lived together going on 33 years, which is kind of sad. (Laughter.) So, yeah, if I could play her I feel like I can just play anybody.”
It would be easy to discuss x’s and o’s and what each needs to do to win on Sunday. Wozniacki needs to have a good serving day, especially on her second serves that proved her downfall in both her losses to Williams. The top seed for her part just needs to be solid all around, and not let any nerves or edginess, especially if she has to serve out a set, get in the way. Yet this final may come just down to something intangible inside both player that no stat sheet can keep track.
No matter the result this match feels like a victory for both. That seems even more true after Wozniacki reposted this image of the pair on Twitter from a recent basketball game they attended.
History will be made by one. For Serena, an 18th career Grand Slam title will put her in rare tennis history company. A first-time major victory for Wozniacki will redefine her career. They both want the title, no doubt. But each will be the first to congratulate the other not only on their win, but on making it to the final together. Because that’s what friends are for.