When the US Open women’s final takes place two very close friends who frequently socialise away from the world’s tennis courts, will be fighting one another. For Serena Williams this is US Open final eight as she chases a sixth title and a third place equalling (with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova) 18th Grand Slam crown, while for Caroline Wozniacki this is her second major final as she tries to stock a trophy cabinet bare of any majors.
This will be their tenth meeting and Serena holds an 8-1 advantage. The only time Wozniacki scored a win was in Miami in 2012 while Serena also beat her at the Open in 2011. However their two meetings during the recent summer and leading up to this climax were close three setters and Wozniacki is hoping third time works a charm.
The June split with fiancée Rory McIlroy appears to have done her the world of good. She has dedicated herself so much more to her tennis and the dividends are there. He is hopefully a distant memory for the distasteful manner in which he behaved.
Through it all her fans did not leave her side and that is clearly evident at the Open as a group of young guys, totally out of tune and who could never hope to audition for “The Voice” or “X Factor” or any nation’s version of “Got Talent”, sing “Sweet Caroline” to her from the stands. It’s something she is amused by.
“It’s fun. It’s nice. “It’s great,” said Wozniacki. “It’s lightens things up. It’s nice to have a big support group out there. I have heard Sweet Caroline sung quite a few times and especially here. So it’s just a bit of fun.”
The band of Wozniacki Wailers started at the Connecticut Open powered by United Technologies many years ago when she won that event four straight years. That support travelled down the highway, I-95, to New York and the locals have picked up the baton.
“I love New York and I think the crowd really has taken me to them and I feel the support here,” she said. “I feel the love. It’s amazing to be out there.”
Irrespective what happens on the court, a few hours later, okay maybe a few days later, Serena and Caro will resume their friendship off court. It is not a hyped friendship.
“If I can play Venus, I can play anybody,” said Serena about playing a close friend like Wozniacki. “I grew up with Venus. We actually lived together going on 33 years, which is kind of sad. So, yeah, if I could play her I feel like I can just play anybody.
“(Caroline and I) never talk tennis so much since we spend so much of our life on the court. Same with me and Venus. Last thing on our minds is tennis. If anything, it’s to not think about a forehand or a backhand.”
Wozniacki added: “The friendship while we are on court is put aside. We are both competitors. We will just be out there and fighting for every point. After the match one of us is going to congratulate the other and we are going to be friends again. It’s fine.”
Both women are coming off erratic seasons at the majors so this is a vindication of sorts of the training and effort they have put it. It also silences critics and is a demonstration of their strong minds which allows them to bounce back.
“I’m just really excited to be in the final,” said Serena who had her lightest season at the majors since 2011 and avoided it being her worst since 2006. “In the beginning of the week I definitely wasn’t sure I would make it this long. Definitely wasn’t sure I’d be here. So I’m just elated, to be honest, to have made it this far.”
Wozniacki says she has learned a lot since being in the final in 2009 along with lessons learnt about herself. Back in 2009 she didn’t know what to expect, it was all new to her, the nerves, the atmosphere, the surroundings. This time it will be different with the greater experience. It’s not to say she will win because of that but she won’t be overawed which gives her a foot in the door at least.
She says she has nothing to lose, but that is a loose comment. There is the US Open to lose.
“It would mean so much to me to win. I have been close before. I would love to win it and have a Grand Slam under my belt … and it would definitely stop the media talking about my lack of a Grand Slam (title),” said Wozniacki laughing.