AUCKLAND (AFP) - Venus Williams bounced back from defeat after a disastrous first set to beat top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the Auckland Classic final on Saturday.
It was the 46th career title for the seven-time Grand Slam champion, who showed her guile in the showdown between the two former world No. 1s to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in just under two hours.
Wozniacki controlled the pace of the match through the first nine games, breaking Williams in the third and fifth to take the first set.
When she broke again at the start of the second it was the wake up call Williams needed - the serve that had deserted the 34-year-old until then suddenly found its mark and her powerful ground strokes stayed in.
"The first set went fast and then it was like, 'time to take it to three'. I tried to stay level-headed in the second and that worked," she said. "It felt good to figure it out and run away with it a little bit."
Williams broke back twice to take the second set, sending the final into a decider where she broke to go 3-1 up and settled the outcome with her fourth match point when Wozniacki was serving at 3-5.
The result leaves Williams unbeaten after six matches in her head-to-head record with Wozniacki, although for the first time the world's eighth-ranked player has taken a set off the American.
At 34, 10 years older than Wozniacki, Williams said she had no interest in slowing down. "By the time you're 34 you have a lot of experience and if you can stay in shape, stay fit, can move and hit the ball and don't have five kids at home then why not?" she said when questioned about possible retirement.
"There's nothing holding me back from being here and doing well. Of course I can't play forever. Someone else has to take the torch at some point. While I'm here I'm enjoying it."
Williams finished runner-up in Auckland last year in another three-setter against Ana Ivanovic, who is now ranked seventh in the world - one place higher than Wozniacki.
Williams, now ranked 19th and who last won a tournament in Dubai last February, headed to Sydney with Wozniacki late on Sunday for their final week of preparation before the Australian Open.
Wozniacki, while disappointed with the result, said the most important thing for her was to start building confidence before the Grand Slam.
"It's great to get so many matches before the Australian Open. I'm happy to have been here. It's been a great start to the season," the Dane said.
"It gives me a lot of confidence. I need match play to get into rhythm. I'm so happy I came here. I'll take Sydney as it comes. The most important thing was I got going."