Serena Williams got the rematch she wanted, just four days after she was destroyed by Simona Halep in their Red Group round robin match.
The world No1, who is gunning for a third consecutive WTA Finals title, came back from a set, and 1-4 down in the final-set tiebreak, to beat Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals on Saturday, and set up a championship match against Halep.
Williams only mustered two games in her defeat to Halep last Wednesday, falling 6-0, 6-2 to the Romanian world No4 and admitted she was surprised by how well her opponent played.
The 33-year-old had said she can’t wait to face Halep again and that she’ll even focus her train just on beating her. Williams may not have had enough time to plot her revenge but she says she’s ready to face her conqueror once again.
“I'm excited. My goal is to win three games. That'll be my first goal,” said Williams of her upcoming showdown with Halep today. “I'm going to go from there. Hopefully I can hold serve. That would be good. Most of all, I hope to break once. So I'm starting out with low goals.”
Halep, who hadn’t faced Williams this season prior to last Wednesday, is aware of the irony that she’ll now get to play her for a second time in one week.
The 23-year-old could have prevented Williams from advancing to the semi-finals had she lost in straight sets to Ana Ivanovic in the final round robin match of their group on Friday but Halep insisted the thought never even crossed her mind. That one set she took off Ivanovic is the reason Williams is still in the tournament.
“I didn’t want (to get Williams eliminated),” said Halep.
“Every time when I go on court I just want to do everything I can to win the match. I play with pleasure. I love tennis. That's why. I don't care about results, but when the results are coming so I'm really happy.”
And indeed Halep couldn’t hide her excitement after she dismantled Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-2, in the semi-finals yesterday, hitting 26 winners to just 13 unforced errors throughout the encounter.
“Of course it will be tough,” Halep says of facing Williams again today. “I will be nervous because it's the finals, but I can't wait to play tomorrow. Because my dream came true and I reached the final, so I have to do everything to win.
“I can say that I learned that I have to believe in my chance against her. I can think that I have the game to beat her.
“She's hitting stronger than me, so I have to play smart aggressive, like I did in the first part of the year. I have no chance if I stay behind the baseline.”
On her part, Williams is hoping she can shake off the bizarre pattern of starting slow she’s developed this tournament.
Against Wozniacki yesterday, the American fell behind before she could wrap up a hard-fought 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (6) victory over her good friend, who had saved three match points before surrendering.
“I need figure that out actually, because it's inexcusable for it to happen once, let alone twice,” Williams said of her slow starts.
Wozniacki was taking on Williams for the fourth time in less than three months and the Dane was trying to improve on a poor 1-9 record against the world No1.
And she looked like she was on her way to doing just that when she found herself serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set. But Williams broke back.
Wozniacki then saved a match point at 5-6 with a sensational volley and opened up a 4-1 lead in the third set tiebreak.
“I thought ‘gosh I had a match point and she played so well in that match point’. Then I thought ‘well, I guess I have to go home now. I told you to get up early in the tiebreak and now you're down 1 4. You didn't listen’,” Williams said of the thoughts that went through her mind when she was trailing in that tiebreak.
The top seed then ran away with five points in a row to get two more match points. Still Wozniacki valiantly fought, saving both, but she faltered two points later and lost for a tenth time to Williams.
Wozniacki could not hide her disappointment after coming ever so close to beating her BFF-nemesis: “This really sucks. Being so close and still losing, it really sucks. I played my heart out. I fought until the end.”