WELLINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Jessica Pegula ended Caroline Wozniacki’s hopes of clinching her first Auckland Classic title when she fought back from a first set rout to beat the Dane 3-6 6-4 6-0 in their semi-final on Saturday.
The 25-year-old American will meet either top seed Serena Williams or teenage compatriot Amanda Anisimova in Sunday’s final.
Wozniacki has been synonymous with the tournament since she first played in Auckland in 2015 but is retiring after the Australian Open later this month.
She had lost her two previous finals at the Auckland Tennis Centre, to Venus Williams in 2015, and Julia Goerges in 2018.
“Caroline has had an amazing career ... and I’m glad that I got to play her before she retired, but I am just happy to get the win and am excited to be in the final,” Pegula said.
“I definitely knew that if I played defensively, I wasn’t going to win that battle, because she is the best in the world at that, so I knew I had to step in, take my chances and trust my game.”
Wozniacki, who gained a measure of revenge on Goerges in the quarter-finals on Friday, raced through the first set, but found herself 3-0 down in the second.
Pegula’s lead, however, disappeared just as quickly as she had built it and Wozniacki battled back to 3-3, but the American managed to break the former world number one in the final game of the set to send it to a decider.
It was then virtually one-way traffic in the third set as the right-handed American opened up the court and moved the Dane around to dictate play and raced away with the match, which she sealed on her second match point opportunity with a forehand winner.
Despite the loss, Wozniacki received a standing ovation from the crowd but will still be in action on Sunday, having advanced to the doubles final with Williams.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Clarence Fernandez