Caroline Wozniacki worked out a comeback route to get to her first Australian Open semifinal and retain her No. 1 ranking.
Wozniacki, bidding for her first Grand Slam tennis title at the season-opening major, fought back from a set and a break down at Melbourne Park yesterday to beat French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
“In the end I figured out how to play,” Wozniacki, a 20-year-old Dane, told reporters. “I stood a little bit closer but still was placing the ball well and made her run a lot. That’s what gave me the good result in the end.”
Wozniacki said she initially struggled with the amount of spin her Italian opponent was putting on the ball, which regularly pinned her back behind the baseline and forced her into errors.
Showing no signs of fatigue from having played the longest women’s match at a major in the previous round, the 30-year-old Schiavone dominated the first set and a half before the contest turned in the space of four points.
Trailing 3-2 in the second set, Wozniacki broke to love and then took the next three games to get to a final set.
“Everything went in my favor afterwards,” Wozniacki said. “When I went to the third set, I was really pumped and ready to go out there and fight until the last ball.”
Still, she needed the help of taping on her left thigh and painkillers for a hip-flexor injury to survive against Schiavone, who took a record 4 hours, 44 minutes to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia in the last round.
Schiavone backed that effort up by spending another 2 hours, 24 minutes on court yesterday before Wozniacki sealed the win on her fourth match point.
“I had my chance,” Schiavone said. “Maybe in the third set I felt a little bit something physically, but it’s not an excuse. I gave the best that I could.”
Wozniacki, competing in her first major as the world’s top-ranked female player, will face No. 9 seed Li Na of China in the opening women’s semifinal tomorrow. By getting to the final four, Wozniacki will stay as No. 1 even if she fails to win another match in Melbourne, the WTA Tour said.
Li, who beat Wozniacki in the fourth round 12 months ago, defeated 30th-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany to return to the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the second year in a row.
The 28-year-old Li tuned up by taking the Sydney title to become the first Chinese player to win a first-tier tournament. She’s now two wins away from becoming her nation’s first Grand Slam singles champion.
“Li Na has improved a lot, but I also believe I have,” Wozniacki said. “I’m just going to go in there, fight for every point. It’s just a matter of who wins the most important points in that match.”