TOKYO (AFP) – Ana Ivanovic charged the net repeatedly to overcome US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 7-6 (7/2) in the final of the WTA Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo Sunday.
The 26-year-old Serb needed 99 minutes to win the battle of the former world number ones, stretching her head-to-head tally of wins over the second-seeded Dane to five-two.
“It was so hard physically. We had a lot of long rallies but to win the title is amazing,” said the third-seeded Ivanovic, who had ousted Germany’s top-seed Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals.
“I really tried to come into the net and finished a lot of points at the net,” said the Serb, who is ranked 10th in the world and has won 15 WTA titles, four of them this year.
“I am happy because Wozniacki is a great defensive player and she gets a lot of balls back.”
It was the first Pan Pacific Open title for Ivanovic, who has competed in the Tokyo event for eight straight years.
Ivanovic broke the 24-year-old Dane’s serve in the first, fifth and seventh games of the first set on a sun-drenched hard-centre court at the Ariake Coliseum.
She rushed forward to volley a cross-court winner at the outset of the eighth and finished the set with two straight service aces.
World number nine Wozniacki, looking to get over her loss to Serena Williams in the US Open final two weeks ago, led 3-1 early in the second set.
The players broke each other twice and levelled at 4-4 when the Serb overcame a break point, smashed in from the net and forced Wozniacki to hit a backhand long.
Wozniacki slumped to 6-2 in the tie-break, hitting four successive shots long and wide. On match point, Ivanovic slammed a forehand down the line well clear of a helpless Wozniacki, the 2010 Pan Pacific Open champion.
“I tried to serve and return well. I tried to play the first couple of balls out wide so she has to run for it,” said the Dane. “But Ana was playing very aggressively.”
Ivanovic also beat Wozniacki in their last encounter – by 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 in the semi-finals at the WTA event in Monterrey in March.
With her win in Tokyo, the Serb earned the top prize money of $196,700 in the $1 million event while $104,900 went to the runner-up.
Both Ivanovic, who topped the world rankings in 2008, and Wozniacki, who reigned in 2010 and 2011, are bound for the big-money WTA event in Wuhan, China, in the coming week.
Both of them are aiming to qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore next month, which will feature the world’s top eight players.