Wozniacki wins the Australian Open
Originally published on 27/01/18 00:00
The Dane’s unrelenting perseverance has brought her the ultimate reward – and the one glaring omission on her stellar résumé is no more.
The 27-year-old edged an epic contest with Simona Halep 7-6(2) 3-6 6-4 to win the 2018 Australian Open. It was a breathless scrap between two exceptional athletes and it was a final filled with unexpected twists and turns.
Halep, who had an arduous route through to the championship match, looked exhausted in the second set yet she somehow forced a decider.
The final set was a baseline war between two competitors desperate to win the ultimate prize, but it was the Dane who edged a tumultuous shootout that included seven breaks of serve.
It was a backhand into the net from Halep that ended a fight that lasted nearly three unforgettable hours, and Wozniacki could not hold back tears as she realised a childhood ambition.
The Dane appeared overwhelmed as she basked in the acclaim of the appreciative capacity crowd, but her unbridled joy was abundantly clear when she was formally introduced to the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
In securing victory over the Romanian, Wozniacki has become the first ever player from Denmark to win a Grand Slam singles title. She will also leapfrog Halep and become world No.1 again on Monday, eight years after she first reached the summit.
Wozniacki’s lack of success at blue-riband events has often been associated with her pragmatic gamestyle. She is predominantly a counter-puncher who likes to absorb pressure and respond on the counter-attack, but she has shown so much more Melbourne.
The Dane performed with aggression and intent throughout the first Grand Slam of the year. Her serve was dependable, her forehand consistent and her backhand outstanding.
It’s been a willingness to be assertive at critical junctures that has been a key aspect behind her recent resurgence, and few can begrudge her a well deserved moment in the spotlight.
“I’m just taking a second to hug Daphne [the trophy]," joked the new champion. “I’ve dreamt of this moment for so many years and to be here today is a dream come true.
“My voice is shaking and I never cry, but this is a very emotional moment.
“I also want to congratulate Simona. It’s a tough day, but I’m sorry I had to win and I’m sure we will have many more matches in the future. It was an incredible match and an incredible fight."
It’s a third Grand Slam final defeat for Halep, however she is unlikely to have too many regrets as she contemplates the long journey home.
The 26-year-old overcame an ankle problem, saved multiple match-points on her way to the championship match and took the final the distance despite struggling physically.
“It’s difficult to talk now, but I want to congratulate Caroline, she played amazing,” acknowledged the gracious finalist. “It’s been a great tournament for me and I started not very well with an ankle injury, but I just wanted to give my best in every match, which I did.
“I’m really happy that I could play the final of a Grand Slam again. Of course I’m sad that I couldn’t win today, but Caroline was better than me. I have many years to go so hopefully I will face another challenge like this today."
It was Wozniacki who settled quicker and established an early 3-0. Her willingness to take risks and hit down the line paid dividends as she yanked her opponent from coast to coast.
Halep’s nerves eventually subsided and she started playing with greater freedom. The Dane had an opportunity at 5-3 to serve for the set, however her forehand let her down when she needed it most.
Wozniacki regrouped though, and dominated the tiebreak as she won a set in a championship match for the first time in her career.
The rallies became more protracted and gruelling in the second set, but both competitors were commanding behind their respective serves. After the fifth game, Halep requested the doctor and had her blood pressure checked, however she was deemed fit enough to continue.
The world No.1 was also troubled by a right thigh issue, but it did not stop her sealing the only break in the set with a crunching forehand winner down the line.
The decider commenced after a 10 minute heat break. Both players looked weary as they attempted to win the biggest title of their lives, but it was the Dane who looked a little fresher – and that proved to be the telling factor in the eventual outcome.
It was a final to remember, and it only whets the appetite for what's to come in the weeks and months ahead.