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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, October 28, 2017

Bending her blue visor as if shading out pressure, Caroline Garcia narrowed her focus holding triple break point in the final game.

Venus Williams was too busy turning back time to falter at the finish line.

Watch: Navratilova Talks Coming Out, Killer Instinct

A defiant Williams denied 12 of 13 break points, including three in the final game, defeating Garcia, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3, to charge into the WTA Finals championship match in Singapore.

Drilling her most aggressive serves in the final game, Williams slashed an ace off the center stripe saving the third break point and sparking her victory. The 37-year-old Williams is the oldest woman to reach the Singapore final.

"She competed so well this whole tournament," Williams told Andrew Krasny afterward. "Every time I thought I was getting close, she was playing amazing. It’s not over tillt he fat lady sings and I’m not fat. I watch my figure Andrew."




The 2008 champion has been an inspirational figure in Shanghai, advancing to her third WTA Finals title match 18 years after she debuted at the year-end event.

If she takes the title tomorrow, Williams will join Hall of Famer Gabriela Sabatini, who won the 1994 year-end title at Madison Square Garden in New York City, as the only women to win their lone titles of the season at the WTA Finals.

Continuing her quest for her 50th career title, Williams face Caroline Wozniacki in tomorrow’s final that is a clash of former world No.1 players and friends. Williams has dominated Wozniacki sweeping all seven of their matches while winning 14 of the 15 sets they’ve played.

“I’m going to be playing against one of the best players in the tournament—another Caroline so it’s going to be like déjà vu,” Williams said. “I’m really excited. She’s a great friend. I’m happy really for one of us to win tomorrow.”

The sixth-seeded Wozniacki wore down Karolina Pliskova, 7-6 (9), 6-3, in today’s first semifinal to surge into her eighth final of the season. The victory denied Pliskova's shot to surpass Simona Halep for the year-end No. 1 ranking.

Wozniacki actually out-aced the WTA Tour’s ace leader—five to four—and won 50 percent of the points played on the powerful Pliskova’s serve.



The 24-year-old Garcia had won 13 of her last 14 matches and came out firing today.

Taking the initiative in rallies at the start, Garcia spun a forehand down the line breaking for 2-0. Williams answered right back lashing a forehand down the line to break back in the third game.

Trying to move her 37-year-old opponent side-to-side, Garcia held with an ace for 4-3 then pressured the former No. 1 with a pair of break points. Williams saved the first with a smash and erased the second with an inside-out forehand. A net-cord shot that crawled over and a crackling crosscourt forehand helped Williams withstand a tough hold to level after eight games.

Clutching at her left hip between points, Williams worked to play shorter, more explosive exchanges but struggled landing her damaging first serve. The Wimbledon finalist served 55 percent and hit six double faults in the set. In contrast, Garcia served 70 percent.

Staring down a set point in the 10th game, Williams stood toe-to-toe with Garcia in a furious forehand exchange. Williams dragged a forehand crosscourt drawing the error to deny set point with the best point of the match. Following a forehand forward, Williams held firm for 5-all.




Navigating out of a love-30 hole, Garcia scooped a stellar backhand half-volley winner off a dipping passing shot to earn a game point. That bit of improvised magic helped her hold for 6-5.

Tension in the tie break was clear as Williams spit up back-to-back double faults and Garcia followed with the third straight double fault of the breaker after four points.

Striking her forehand with more vigor, Garcia banged out to forehand errors from the fifth seed for a 5-2 lead. When Williams’ floated a forehand return deep, Garcia had three set points.


On the seventh shot of the rally, Williams lifted a stretched forehand long—her fourth forehand miscue of the breaker—as Garcia grabbed the fierce 66-minute opening set.

Pacing methodically between points, Williams dug down and fended off two more break points to start the second set with a stand. That game ignited a seven-point run as Williams rolled through a love break for 2-0 then consolidated prompting Garcia to call out her father and coach, Louis Paul, for a consultation.




Lasering her first ace off the service line helped Williams hold for 4-1 after 90 minutes of play.

Dodging another break point in the seventh game, Williams gained set point on a Garcia forehand error. The eighth-seed curled a crosscourt forehand to create space then smacked an inside-out forehand winner.

The world No. 5 continued to press the issue and when Garcia scattered a backhand long on the third set point, Williams had forced the decider. That break ensured Williams would serve first in the final set pressuring Garcia to play from behind.




Hitting her serve with more authority, Williams banged three aces and saved all three break points she faced in the second set.

Powering through a love hold with a sweeping forehand and crunching backhand down the line, Williams built a 3-2 lead in the final set.

Stamping a second straight love hold spurred Williams to lift her level in the eighth game.

A forehand down the line earned the veteran double break point. Grunting with greater vigor, Williams hurled her body into a backhand down the line breaking for 5-3.

Though she was playing her most dynamic tennis of the match, Williams faced a stress test serving for the final.

Staring down triple break point, the 2008 champion exhaled deeply, then roused herself defiantly. Williams pumped a pair of blistering serves then reached back and stuck an ace off the edge of the center stripe saving the third break point for deuce.




Garcia sprayed a backhand giving Williams match point. When Garcia’s final backhand found the net, Williams gazed into her support box and thrust a triumphant series of excited fist pumps before stretching out her legs sitting on her court-side seat.

“It’s hard to produce your best tennis at the end of the year, but this tournament is one of the most important tournaments,” Williams said. “The top eight players in the world (are here). Nothing is easy. To be standing in the winner’s circle, almost, is so amazing.”

 

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