It's official: The reign of Princess Caroline is over in New Haven. Caroline Wozniacki, who had won four straight New Haven Opens before being forced to retire in last year's semi-finals, was soundly defeated by Simona Halep in straight sets, 2-6, 5-7, before 3,050 fans at The Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale on Friday night.
The first set was over before it began, really.
After swapping breaks, and the set tied at two games apiece, Halep, a 5-6, 132-lb. Romanian, who will turn 23 next month, broke the Danish beauty for the second time, then won the next three games to take the first set, 6-2.
That's right. Wozniacki's serve was broken not once, not twice, but three times in the first set.
Now that's a bad hair day … or in this case, night.
The second set started off the way the first sent began—with Halep breaking Wozniacki, then holding serve. After Wozniacki held serve, Halep broke her for a second time to take a lead, serving at 3-1.
“I'm really happy," said an elated Halep in the post-match interview room. "I was nervous before the match. She's a top player. A good player.”
At that point, Halep had broken five of seven Wozniacki serves. And still, the match t wasn't over quite yet. Wozniacki held twice, and broke Halep once, getting right back into the second set. Then, with the score tied at 5-5, it happened.
Halep mis-hit a ball that popped up high in the air, sending Wozniacki a lob at the net that had “SMASH ME!” written all over it. And Sweet Caroline did just that. Only she hit the ball out wide left of the doubles court—much to everyone's amazement, including her own.
"I don't know how I missed that by, like, a mile," said a bemused Wozniacki after the match. "It wasn't a very difficult shot. OK, it was high, but 99 out of 100 times I make it.”
Then, in a typically charming understatement, she added, “It was a pretty crucial point."
That one point not withstanding, Halep won this match with masterful play by moving Wozniacki, the tourney's No. 4 seed, frantically to-and-fro about her side of the net like a hotwired pinball machine with horizontal lanes.
"I have to enjoy it and try my best, because she's a top player," reiterated Halep on the heretofore “Great Dane,” who came to New Haven ranked No. 10 in the world.
Halep's victory was the nightcap of two singles semi-final matches. In the first, defending champion Petra Kvitová of the Czech Republic defeated fellow Czech Klara Zakopalova 6-0, 6-1, earlier in the day. Kvitová, the tournament's highest remaining seed (No. 3) and ranked No. 9 on the WTA Tour, will attempt to become only the fourth person to win multiple singles titles in New Haven in the finals on Saturday afternoon, joining Wozniacki and Venus Williams (four apiece) and Fairfield native James Blake, who won New Haven twice when men were part of the mix. (Editor's Note: Steffi Graf won the tournament four times, but only once after it located in New Haven.)
Friday's loss was the first set Wozniacki had evern lost in New Haven while healthy, and represented the second straight year that she had bowed in the semifinals. Last year, she was forced to retire midway through the semifinal round after tweaking her right knee vs. Maria Kirilenko .
After the match, the always gregarious Wozniacki was surprised when she was presented with a consolation prize in the form of a commemorative hockey jersey by Andrew Miller, caption of the defending NCAA champion Yale Bulldogs. “This is wonderful,” said Wozniacki, who had previously been closely associated with the Yale football team, and cut a promotional clip adorned in the Yale Bulldog outfit prior to this year's tournament. “I'm more of a hockey fan [than football] back home [in Monaco, where she currently resides] anyway!”
Saturday's final will begin at 3 p.m., and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.