Caroline Wozniacki might be a Danish citizen, but she seemed New Haven’s hometown hero as she advanced to the New Haven Open semifinals with a 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory over world No. 8 Francesca Schiavone on Friday.
Fans cheered for her loudly as she took the court to start the game, and made their overwhelming support for the world No. 1 clear as she fought through a close first set, then pulled away in front of 4,514 at the Connecticut Tennis Center. The Yale football team attended the match in uniform to cheer Wozniacki on, and the Elis — and Wozniacki’s boyfriend, golfer Rory McIlory, in a Yale jersey of his own — joined her on the court.
“I just like the atmosphere here overall,” Wozniacki said in a press conference after the match. “The court suits me really well, the speed of the court. And they just do a great job of making me feel at home.”
The New Haven Open gambled on Wozniacki in its first year without a men’s draw and without former sponsor Pilot Pen. She has won three consecutive titles in New Haven, and she and her streak became the face of the tournament’s avertising campaign. The script unfolded perfectly Friday with Wozniacki’s 16th consecutive win in New Haven, where she has never lost.
Schiavone matched her opponent shot for shot through much of the first set, and seized the momentum early when she took a 4-2 lead after seizing the momentum early after breaking Wozniacki and then holding her own serve at love. But she would not break her opponent again that set and could not overcome numerous unforced errors.
Instead, it was Wozniacki who, down 5-4, turned the game around with a single point. Schiavone, who had been winning points off her drop shots all night, tried another one as she faced break point. Wozniacki sprinted to the net to make a return. Then Schaivone hit a lob, and Wozniacki managed a deep return in full stride toward the baseline. Schiavone sent the next shot straight into the net, then flung her racquet to the ground in frustration.
“I already thought I had lost [the point] a few times and then somehow I saw it was going in,” Wozniacki said. “Then it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m back in the point here.'”
The set was tied, 5-5, but Schiavone would not recover. Although she forced a tiebreaker after falling behind, 6-5, Wozniacki dominated the extra play.
Wozniacki returned for the second set with a bandage around her thigh — she later said it was just a strain —and Schiavone changed shirts. But the result was the same. Wozniacki recovered from a 3–2 deficit and cruised to victory in the last four games of the match, cuing the song “Sweet Caroline” over the speakers when Schiavone shanked a backhand badly on match point.
“Her consistency is okay,” Schiavone said in a press conference. “But me, I don’t catch my chance.”
Wozniacki will face qualifier Petya Cetkovska, who upset No. 5 Li Na in Friday’s early semifinal, in the women’s finals Saturday afternoon.