At the start of this week Caroline Wozniacki was expressing relief at no longer having to comment on whether she deserved to be world No 1 given that she has never won a Grand Slam title. Come Monday the 20-year-old Dane will be bracing herself for another round of questions along the same lines. Wozniacki's 6-2, 6-4 victory here yesterday over Shahar Peer in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Championships ensured that she will return to the top in next week's updated rankings list, just seven days after being overtaken by Kim Clijsters.
Although Wozniacki insists that she pays little attention to the rankings at this stage of the season, she was on Twitter within two hours of her victory announcing her return to the top. Clijsters sent her congratulations almost immediately.
Rising to No 1 can be a poisoned chalice - in the last three years Dinara Safina (now world No 115), Ana Ivanovic (No 19) and Jelena Jankovic (No 8) have all tumbled back down the rankings after reaching top spot - but Wozniacki takes justifiable pride in her achievement. "It's just nice to be able to say you're No 1 in the world," she said. "It's a good feeling to have."
The calendar is such that Wozniacki is guaranteed to remain at No 1 for at least a month. On her form this week she could stay there for a good while longer. Her victory over Peer, who beat her here 12 months ago, was her most impressive performance so far, particularly given the difficult circumstances.
As with all of Peer's matches at this tournament, it was played on one of the outside courts next to the compound where, for security reasons, the Israeli has her own locker room. Spectators, who sat on only one side of the court, had to pass through security scanners and were not even allowed to take in bottles of water, despite the intense afternoon sun.
Wozniacki took a 3-0 lead in the first set and a 4-0 lead in the second. Peer, aware of the Dane's great retrieving ability, was forced into going for too many winners and her errors flowed. The world No 11 played her way back into the match towards the end of the second set and had two points to level at 5-5, but Wozniacki held firm, converting her first match point with a drive volley winner.
"I'm playing good tennis," Wozniacki said afterwards. "I feel when I'm playing on a high level, I'm tough to beat."
Peer regretted her inconsistency - "I played two games good in the first set and only the last three or four games in the second set - between that, I played pretty terribly" - but was satisfied with her week's work. Once again she has performed well at the Aviation Club in the most testing of situations, though she was full of praise for the way she has been treated.
The 23-year-old has been here with her father, Dovik, who expressed his thanks to the Women's Tennis Association, to the tournament and to all those individuals who had enabled his daughter to play here and made her stay enjoyable. "They are unbelievable," he said. "They have shown that sports can be above anything else."
In today's semi-finals Wozniacki will play Jankovic, who came from behind to win for the second day in succession. Twenty-four hours after recovering from 5-3 down in the final set to beat Kaia Kanepi, the Serb beat Australia's Samantha Stosur 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, despite having trailed 4-1 in the decider.
"It's been an amazing match," Jankovic said, having taken two hours and 50 minutes to beat the world No 5. "I was a little bit tired on the court and I felt that I almost had no gas in the tank, but with a positive attitude, I just kept saying to myself: 'Keep going, one point at a time'."
Svetlana Kuznetsova reached her first semi-final for six months when she beat Agnieszka Radwanska 7-6, 6-3. The Russian plays the winner of last night's concluding quarter-final between Flavia Pennetta and Alisa Kleybanova.
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