Eastbourne - Denmark's world number two Caroline Wozniacki gave herself
the perfect confidence-booster ahead of Wimbledon with a hard fought 7-5, 7-6
(7/5) victory over Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka to take her second WTA Eastbourne
title on Saturday.
The 27-year-old top seed was winning her first title since
claiming her maiden Grand Slam trophy earlier this year in the Australian Open.
She benefited from her greater experience than her
20-year-old opponent, who served for both sets only for Wozniacki to break back
Sabalenka's consolation will be to rise to 32 in the
rankings - having been 135 this time last year - and beating three seeded
players on the way to the final.
Wozniacki - who last won the Eastbourne tournament in 2009
the same year Sabalenka's coach Dmitry Tursonov won the men's title - said she
was delighted to have won what was her 29th WTA title.
"This means a lot, I forgot how heavy (the trophy) it
is!" said Wozniacki.
"It is great I can still play at this level almost 10
Wozniacki, whose father and coach Piotr came on to the court
twice to give her advice, says the victory sets her up nicely for Wimbledon,
the only Grand Slam event in which she has never reached the quarter-finals.
"I was thinking she (Sabalenka) has played so many sets
this week and doubles yesterday how can she still be so full of energy,"
"Then I recalled she is much younger than me.
"Wimbledon is such a special tournament and I love
"To be playing well going into Wimbledon is great.
"I definitely had some great matches this week which
sets me up nicely."
For Sabalenka, who sprang to prominence last year as the
driving force behind Belarus' run to the Fed Cup final where they lost to the
United States, said playing Wozniacki, only the fifth top 10 player she has
faced, had been an invaluable experience.
"I will remember that this is my first premier level
WTA final and the 17 sets from this week," she said laughing.
"She (Wozniacki) is a great player. You have to be
focussed on every point, she puts the balls in the right place."
Sabalenka's power threatened to overwhelm Wozniacki in both
sets only for the younger player to suffer an attack of nerves when presented
with opportunities to close them out.
In the first, serving for the set at 5-4, she dropped her
serve with a double fault giving Wozniacki the game.
Wozniacki - whose brother Patrick was commentating on the
match for Danish TV - won the next two games to take the first set.
A similar pattern developed in the second set with Sabalenka
breaking Wozniacki early on, the Dane breaking back only for the Belarus to
move a break up again to lead 6-5.
However, again she faltered when in sight of taking a set,
Wozniacki breaking her and forcing the tie-break.
The Belarus also had a mini break on Wozniacki in the
tie-break but the redoubtable Dane again fought back to take the set and the