Three-time defending champion and World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki won her 16th match in a row over four years at the WTA New Haven Open on Friday to reach the final of the US Open tuneup.
The Danish star defeated Italian third seed Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, to sustain her win streak and received a kiss on the court afterwards from her boyfriend, reigning US Open golf champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.
Awaiting Wozniacki in the final will be Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska, who upset French Open champion Li Na of China 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (11/9) in the other semi-final to reach her first WTA championship match.
Wozniacki played the second set with her right thigh taped but said it was only a minor muscle strain and would not hinder her in the final or the US Open.
"I did it for protection because I started feeling it a little bit in my groin," Wozniacki said. "It was more so it didn't get worse. I just wanted to wrap it up and make sure it didn't get worse."
Wozniacki, still seeking her first Grand Slam title as the year's final Slam tournament looms starting Monday in New York, trailed 4-2 in the first set but rallied to dominate the tie-breaker and advance.
McIlroy wore a Yale University gridiron jersey in tribute to the school which hosts the tournament. He joined the Yale team in celebrating the victory on the court with Wozniacki, although only McIlroy received a kiss.
Yale players have attended Wozniacki's matches since she spoke at a 2009 practice.
"It's a good tradition to have, having the Yale football team there sitting in the back supporting," Wozniacki said. "Unfortunately, I don't think I'll make it to their practice this time. But it's great. I love it."
The championship match was moved to early afternoon Saturday because of approaching Hurricane Irene, which could cause damage in the area after devastating the Caribbean with high winds, heavy rain and tidal surges.
Cetkovska, ranked 40th, saved a match point in the tie-breaker before winning on her fifth match point.
"This is my best win," Cetkovska said. "I'm so happy to win this match. There were so many ups and downs."
Cetkovska dominated early, struggled with errors to let Li back into the match, but then finally broke through after two hours and 41 minutes to reach the title match at the US Open hardcourt tuneup event.
"I'm really very excited about this week," Cetkovska said. "At this stage, you don't think about being tired."
Li made 55 unforced errors, 10 more than Cetkovska, and hit 26 winners to 20 for the qualifier.
Li was down a set and a break but rallied to force a third set, only to have the Czech seize a 4-1 lead.
But Cetkovska struggled to close out the match, with the eighth break of the final set coming when Li pulled even at 5-5, her Czech foe denying herself on a match point with a double fault.
"I was really stressed," she said. "It was really difficult for me to control my movements. The hand, the legs, everything was slowed down. It's life. It's tennis. There are a lot of emotions.
"But I'm really happy in the end that I could have fight with my emotions and be able to win this match."
Both women held in their final game of the match to force a deciding tie-breaker, each struggling with errors throughout.
When Li sent a cross-court backhand wide, Cetkovska reached match point once again at 6-5, but the Chinese star was saved by a net cord winner.
Li sent a forehand long but Cetkovska netted a forehand to squander yet another chance and give Li new life at 7-7.
Cetkovska netted another forehand to give Li her first match point but the Chinese star could not cash in either, her backhand catching the top of the net and falling on her side.
"I think today's serve was like the worst ever," Li said. "I mean, no first serve."
Li double faulted to give Cetkovska a 9-8 edge and her fourth match point, but again she misfired, netting a backhand.
Li sent a backhand long to give the Czech a fifth match-point chance and then smacked a cross-court forehand wide to hand Cetkovska the victory.