Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki will put their friendship aside tomorrow to do battle for the US Open title.
As soon as the draw was made and they were placed in opposite halves of the draw, the pair were eyeing a final against one another.
Williams and Wozniacki have one of the closest friendships on tour but, as the world number one pointed out, she is well used to having to cope with personal feelings on court.
“If I can play Venus, I can play anybody,” Serena said of her sister. “I grew up with Venus. We’ve actually lived together going on 33 years, which is kind of sad.”
Williams and Wozniacki have become even closer during this summer, spending what appeared from the many pictures to be a riotous week together in Miami in May.
Both had gone out of the French Open early while Wozniacki was getting over the shock ending to her engagement to Rory McIlroy.
The most eye-catching pictures came when Williams gatecrashed a wedding wearing a leopard-print swimming costume.
“Serena is a fun girl,” said Wozniacki. “She’s so nice to hang out with. Always makes me laugh and makes everyone around her laugh. Definitely a very inspiring person to be around.
“But I’m pretty good at separating things on the court and off the court. It’s definitely going to be a huge match on Sunday. The friendship, while we are on court, is put aside.
“We are both competitors. We will just be out there and fighting for every point. After the match, one of us is going to congratulate the other and we’re going to be friends again.”
While it is no surprise to see Williams in the final for the third year running, despite her shaky form at the slams this year, Wozniacki’s resurgence has been more unexpected.
The Dane was a prodigious talent, a US Open finalist at 19 and world number one by 20.
But over the last three years, success on the biggest stage has dried up and she had not even made a slam quarter-final since the Australian Open in 2012.
That statistic was put to bed with a hugely impressive victory over Maria Sharapova earlier this week and there is no doubt she deserves her place in the final.
In her days as world number one, no slam went by without Wozniacki being asked about her lack of a title, and she feels she is better prepared finally to answer that question than when she faced Kim Clijsters in 2009.
“I have definitely learned a lot in those years,” she said. “I have had more matches under my belt. I have learned more about myself.
“But also going out to the final back then against Kim, I knew that it was going to be really tough. I didn’t know what to expect, what to expect from my nerves.
“She had been out there before. So this time it’s going to be different. I hope that I’ll have more experience. I hope that I’ll go out there and just go for it.
“I have nothing to lose. I have only things to win. It’s one more match, and I’m going to take it as any other match. I know it’s going to be difficult, but it’s going to be so much fun to be out there.”
Wozniacki’s form has improved dramatically since splitting from McIlroy, the Dane winning her first title of the year in Istanbul and beating two top-10 players in Cincinnati last month.
In a recent New York Times interview, Wozniacki said of McIlroy: “I don’t want to have my name stuck with him forever. I’m my own person. I have my own career.”
Whether that sentiment is motivating her in New York, the 24-year-old will not say, but it would certainly be a remarkable double if Wozniacki could follow up McIlroy’s Open and US PGA titles with a major of her own.
The Dane has only won one of her previous nine matches against Williams but has pushed her close twice in Montreal and Cincinnati in recent weeks.
“When she’s on fire, she’s hard to beat,” Wozniacki said. “But I have had two tough matches against her the last few weeks. I was really close. Hopefully for me, third time’s the charm.”
Williams has looked back to her best in New York after losing before the quarter-finals at all the other three slams this year.
There is plenty on the line for the American, who is looking to win her third title in a row at Flushing Meadows and join Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert on 18 slam singles titles.
Williams, who has not yet dropped a set, said: “I definitely expect another close match. She really knows my game well and knows how to play.
“She’s so consistent. I think that’s one of the things that makes her really tough. So I just have to be ready for that and, again, just stay calm and just be able to relax and be happy.
“The past six months, I would never have thought I’d be here.”