Simona Halep Wins Thriller to Move into Australian Open Final Against Caroline Wozniacki
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 25, 2018
(January 25, 2018) It will be a battle for a first major title and world No. 1 when No. 1 seed Simona Halep meets No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki for the Australian Open title on Saturday night in Melbourne. This will be the third major final for both women as well as the first Australian Open final.
Halep saved two match points in an intense contest over 2016 champion Angelique Kerber 6-3, 4-6, 9-7.
In the Halep-Wozniacki match, top seed Halep jumped out to a 5-0 lead, thanks to aggressive play and a nervous error-prone Kerber.
Kerber won the next three games, changing the momentum which was short-lived as she was broken which gave Halep the set 6-3.
In the second set, the ladies exchanged breaks of serve in the fourth and fifth games. At 3-4, Kerber held off two break points which would have Halep serving for the match.
In the ninth game, Kerber turned the tide breaking serve for a 5-4 lead and served out the set to level the match 3-6, 6-4.
The third set was a see-saw, topsy-turvy clash which saw both women exchange breaks with intense play. Kerber had four match points, two of them when serving for the match at 6-5 in the third set.
The German seemed to be the more tired during the final set, Halep forcing the play, being more aggressive and moving Kerber all over the court.
After the match Halep talked about the upcoming final in her on court interview: “When I played the final at French Open I said that if I will be in the same situation I will give my best and I will be more courageous and next round I just want to give my best to believe that I have the chance to win.”
“I’m shaking now, Halep said after the 2-hour and twenty-minute match. “I’m really emotional.”
“I’m really glad that I could resist. I had two match balls and I lost them. Today I was like a roller coaster… up and down…. I had confidence in myself.”
“I was fighting until the last point, and I came back after the first set and also when I was, like, 3-5 down in the third set, and I think for me I was just fighting for every point,” Kerber said to media. “You know, you have days where you’re not feeling good, but my heart was on court, and I think this is, for me, the most important thing that I put everything on the court.”
“I tell to myself already that I gave everything, you know. This is always the most important thing.
“I mean, of course I had the two match points, but even I did two chances, she played good, so I couldn’t do nothing. It was just a battle at the end. It’s just one or two points which decides the match.”
No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki has reached her first Australian Open final, beating unseeded Elise Mertens 6-3, 7-6 (2) in the first women’s semifinal on Thursday afternoon in Melbourne.
This will mark her third major final. She lost in the final of the US Open twice – in 2009 she lost to Kim Clijsters and in 2014 where she lost to friend Serena Williams.
She is potentially one win away from winning her first major and returning to No. 1 in the world. She last had the top spot six years ago.
The match was smooth sailing, with very few errors until the Dane served for the match at 6-3, 5-4 when errors crept into her game and she started missing first serves and threw in a pair of double faults.
“Once she had set points. I thought, ’OK, now you just have to go for it, she’s nervous now, too,” said Wozniacki.
The 22-year-old Belgian Mertens ranked 37, broke serve, held for 6-5 and had two set points on Wozniacki’s serve. The Dane fought back, holding serve and forcing a tiebreak which she dominated 7-2.
After the match, during her on-court interview, Wozniacki admitted that she got tire at 5-4 in the second set and was thinking about her loss to Li Na in 2011, when she had a match point to reach the final but did not capitalize.
“It means so much to me. I got really tight at 5-4. I kind of felt my head against the wall,” Wozniacki said.
“I just tried to stay calm and I was lucky to get the win.”
“I still have one match to go,” noted Wozniacki. “I think it’s been a great two weeks so far. I’m really happy and proud of how I’ve managed to turn things around when things weren’t going my way and keep it up whenever it was going my way.
“I’m just excited. It’s another finals. It’s another great two weeks. Regardless of what happens now, I’ve done my best. When you go out there on Saturday, you have everything to win.”
In her news conference, Wozniacki talked about playing either Kerber or Halep in the final: “They’re both amazing players and both great athletes, great fighters, both of them great counter punchers. They have a lot of similarities.
“Obviously Halep, just like me, was down match points early on in the tournament, has come back and fought her way. If I play her, I think it’s exciting because we’re both playing for the No. 1 ranking. Whoever wins on Saturday will be on the top of the rankings, which I think is a cool storyline.
“On the other hand, playing Angie is exciting, too. One of my great friends, someone I’ve grown up with, we’re really close with. So that would be fun too.
“So either way, I’m just going to go out there and have fun, enjoy the moment. It’s been a great two weeks. I’m really happy to be there. As I said early on in the week, I could have been home already. But now I’m here and I fought my way all the way to the finals. I’m just really proud of that and really excited.
“A new opportunity on Saturday, and I’m going to do my best to try and win it.”
“It’s also my dream, to win a Grand Slam title, ” Halep said. “But, you know, it’s always tough when you are close. I had this opportunity two times. The last one was very close.”
For the 21st seed Kerber, her run to the semifinals will put her back in the top ten at No. 9. Thursday’s match was her first loss of the 2018 season.
The last time this happened in Melbourne?
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 25, 2018
The last time the top two seeds met in an Australian Open women’s final was back in 2015 when No. 1 Serena Williams beat No. 2 Maria Sharapova in straight sets.
In men’s action, the run for the British youngster Kyle Edmund is over. Sixth seed Marin Cilic stopped the 23-year-old’s run 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-2 on Thursday night to reach the final.
For Cilic, this will be his third major final, his first Australian Open final. He’ll play the winner of Friday’s semifinal – second seed Roger Federer vs. Hyeon Chung. Cilic is the first Croatian player to be in the Melbourne final.
“I think in that second set I was just a little bit up and down with my game,” Cilic said in his on-court interview.
“I was not getting enough returns back to put pressure on his service games and he started to serve quite good and he started to release a couple of forehands, but I just stayed mentally very focused, to try to play every single point. It was extremely crucial in the tiebreak, obviously, to keep that pressure.
“I feel really good. Today was just a little bit different to the match with Rafa (Nadal). In that match I lifted my game a lot and my energy was really good on the court. I think overall, I’m feeling really good – and that’s thanks to my guys, my fitness coach, they are making me work really hard. It obviously a great thing that I have two days off, so it’s going to be a nice one on Sunday.”
More to follow…