By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Caroline Wozniacki [2[ def. Elise Mertens 6-3 7-6(2)
  • Could return to World No. 1 for the first time since 2012.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Caroline Wozniacki continues her strides back up the rankings as she eyes up a first major title and the World No. 1 spot after beating Elise Mertens.




Caroline Wozniacki [2[ def. Elise Mertens 6-3 7-6(2)

With just one match between them last year in Bastad, it would be hard to know just how much Elise Mertens was riding on the confidence of an Australian unbroken run this season. Mertens is the first Belgian to reach the semi-final at the Australian Open since Kim Clijsters in 2012 – although she does have big shows to fill after Clijsters won the 2011 Australian Open final.

But she came up against an inspired Caroline Wozniacki whose one start to the season fed off the momentum of winning the WTA Finals last year in Singapore. The best Mertens had ever done previously at a Grand Slam was to reach the third round in Roland Garros last year, while old hand Wozniacki reaches the semi-final at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2011.

Elise Mertens at the Australian Open, 2018

Elise Mertens at the Australian Open, 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Coming into the semi-final – Mertens was unbeaten on Aussie soil. She successfully defended her Hobart title – the very piece of hardware that prevented her from playing last year, but on her main draw debut she had been pretty impressive. But it all came down to experience in the end.

Wozniacki was the first to cut loose in the first set to open up a 3-1 lead, and although Mertens had a chance to break back she could not follow through. She successfully stopped Wozniacki breaking for the set, but the Dane just put her head down and dealt out a serve to live to wrap that up.

Mertens was immediately under pressure at the start of the second set, fending off a couple of break points before finally surrendering her serve. While it looked like Wozniacki would ease into a final berth, there was another little twist, as Mertens broke Wozniacki as she served for the match. Moreover the jitters carried over into the World No. 2’s game as Mertens held to love to hit the front in the second set.

However maybe a combination of nerves at the prospect of taking it into a decider, and Wozniacki settling her own nerves saw her save two set points, before nabbing the game to take it to a tie-break. Once Wozniacki got her nose in front though, errors started to creep into the Belgian’s game, providing Wozniacki with four match points – the final backhand error from the Belgian sending Wozniacki into her third Slam final, her first in Australia.

She admitted afterwards that the match point she held against Li Na back in 2011 was one that got away, and had stayed with her for all this time.

“We’re seven years on and it’s still there (smiling). But I think you just learn all the time. I’ve had matches where I’ve been down match points and I’ve won them, and you learn something from that. You’ve been up match points, and lost it. At the end of the day, all we can do is take your moment, take your time, really just go for it when you have the opportunity.”

Simona Halep in the second round of the Australian Open, 2018

Simona Halep in the second round of the Australian Open, 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Being first in the final means she had the chance to assess both potential competitors and with a healthy 4-2 lead over Simona Halep, Wozniacki assessed a long day on Saturday ahead.

“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.

“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.”

The Australian Open women’s singles final will take place on Saturday 27 January at 7:30pm (8:30am GMT).




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