Tennis

Wozniacki reaches first Miami Open final on 10th try

Caroline Wozniacki lunges for a forehand return during her semifinal victory over Karolina Pliskova on Thursday.
Caroline Wozniacki lunges for a forehand return during her semifinal victory over Karolina Pliskova on Thursday. El Nuevo Herald

Caroline Wozniacki is more familiar with the Crandon Park Tennis Center than most players at the Miami Open. She is a part-time Miami resident, sometimes trains on Key Biscayne, won the Orange Bowl junior title here in 2005 and has played the Miami Open 10 years in a row.

But she had never reached a final until now.

Wozniacki, displaying a variety of shots in addition to her dogged retrieving, rallied to beat No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals on Thursday afternoon. Her opponent for Saturday’s final will be Johanna “Jo” Konta of Great Britain, who eliminated Venus Williams 6-4, 7-5 in the late match that stretched past midnight Friday morning. Williams, 36, has had a resurgence this season, reaching the Australian Open final, and was 14-3 heading into the Miami Open semis.

Konta was the first British woman to reach the Miami Open semifinals. She is ranked No. 11 in the world, and last October snuck into the Top 10, becoming the first British woman to do that since another Jo, Jo Durie, did it three decades ago. Konta was born in Australia to Hungarian parents, and moved to England when she was 14. She represented Australia until 2012, when she game a British citizen.

“Good morning everyone,” Konta said to the fans who were left at Stadium Court at the end of her match against Williams. “Thank you so much for staying. I am really happy to be here. I feel fortunate because the match was so close and could have gone either way. Caroline makes you work for every point, so we could be in for a three or four hour battle on Saturday.

“It’s extremely special,” Wozniacki said of making Saturday’s final.

“Having a place here, training here in the offseason, playing kind of on home advantage, it’s special to be in my first finals here. I’m extremely excited. It’s always been a tournament where I wouldn’t say I struggle, but I’ve just not had the results I wanted.”

Wozniacki is a former world No. 1 who held the ranking for 67 weeks in 2010 and ’11. But she battled ankle injuries last year, fell out of the top 50 last summer and was getting more publicity for her love life and swimsuit modeling. Carrying the flag of Denmark in the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics was one of the highlights of her year.

But she has surged back this season. She made back-to-back finals at Doha and Dubai last month, and will re-enter the top 10 with her results here.

She expects a tough final, whether it is Williams or Konta on the other side of the net. Konta beat her in straight sets in the third round of the Australian Open in January. Playing Williams, she said, would be a special thrill.

“Venus is an inspiration, being 36 years old, turning 37 this year, it’s so impressive that she’s been playing so well and playing so well for so many years,” said Wozniacki, 26.

“Her determination and everything that she shows, she’s great for tennis. It’s great to see her playing at a very high level. I have nothing but just positive words to say about Venus.

“Venus is one of those few players on tour that I’ve played quite a few times and I’ve never beaten her. So I would definitely try and get my revenge on court.”

FEDERER LIKES NOISE

Roger Federer enjoyed the boisterous crowd during his 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6) quarterfinal win over Tomas Berdych. As the father of two sets of twins, he wasn’t rattled by the occasional crying baby.

“The crowd, I thought it was actually very enjoyable,” Federer said. “Sometimes, the occasional baby screams. That doesn’t bother me, obviously. I’m used to that in a big way. It’s when I’m sleeping, it’s all the time.

“It’s part of the game. Honestly, I think it’s nice that in tennis we have it super loud, super quiet, super loud.

“I think it makes tennis very special. If there was more screaming and more shouting and more movement, that would be OK, too.

“I think it’s gotten to a point where everybody has to be super silent, and I almost disagree with that. We play through so many other conditions in practice that we should be able to handle it.”

CELEBRITY FANS

Among the celebrities who requested tickets for Thursday’s matches were former Major League Baseball star and ex-Westminster Christian standout Alex Rodriguez, race car driver Juan Pablo Montoya and musician Morris Day. Gustavo Kuerten, the Brazilian former world No. 1 tennis player, was also on the grounds.

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