HONG KONG • Former women's world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki captured her 25th career WTA title when she beat unseeded Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 in the Hong Kong Open final yesterday.
The fifth-seeded 26-year-old, who will now move back into the world's top 20, has been in fine form, winning 19 of her last 22 matches, but was pushed to the limit by Mladenovic during an intense final lasting 2hr 40min.
Despite a strong start from the Dane, Mladenovic, limping slightly and visibly despondent, refused to back down as she produced a spirited performance to win the second set, the only one Wozniacki dropped during the tournament.
Wozniacki, who won the Pan Pacific Open last month, held her nerve as she showcased her years of experience to clinch the third set and claim her second Tour title of the year.
Frequently bending to lean on her racket between points, Mladenovic was in tears as she desperately tried to fight back after Wozniacki took a 5-0 lead in the third set.
The 23-year-old Frenchwoman fought hard but eventually ran out of options.
"I'm really pleased with my week - there was some good tennis and long battles," said Wozniacki.
The Dane said the final was a mental battle, as it was unclear to her how badly Mladenovic was hurt.
"It wasn't easy mentally because sometimes she would look like she couldn't play and then she would run like Speedy Gonzalez - clearly it's not that bad if you can run side to side," said Wozniacki.
"There was definitely a mental game. I just happened to win it."
Wozniacki herself has battled back from injury and has had a resurgent run of form in the past two months, reaching the semi-finals of the US Open and winning the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
She is still without a Grand Slam title to her name and said it was her ambition to win one.
"It's the only thing missing from my CV," she said.
Mladenovic had been aiming for her first WTA title - it was the third time she had made a singles final, only to lose.
She said she had struggled with exhaustion and a hamstring injury during the final after a week of long matches as well as suffering in the heat and humidity.
"I was not coming out fresh and when you play someone like Caroline, who is running down every point, you have to fight," she said. "It was very difficult. I have no idea how I made it to three sets."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE