By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Caroline Wozniacki [2] def. Simona Halep [1] 7-6(2) 3-6 6-4
  • Returns to World No. 1 ranking, exactly six years since she last held the No. 1 ranking.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Caroline Wozniacki finally laid claim to her first Grand Slam title, and reclaims the World No. 1 ranking, beating Simona Halep in three sets.

 

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In an era when players’ resurgent careers have taken the limelight, the Australian Open hosted a tense final that had everything including heart, left all out on the court, for both Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep.

It was a strong start by Wozniacki – her service stats had been impressive throughout the tournament and the final was no different as she comfortably held, and backed that up by putting Halep under immediate pressure – break Halep straight away, consolidating for a 3-0 lead.

Halep finally settled her nerves are she started to go across court a lot more, forcing the errors from Wozniacki and more importantly stopping her from dictating the play all the time.

With the advantage of having started and built up a lead – Wozniacki showed no signs of slowing down – the point of the match went her way with a breath-taking rally, leaving Halep probably wondering what more she had to do to just earn a single point.

Simona Halep in the final of the Australian Open, 2018

Simona Halep in the final of the Australian Open, 2018 | (PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Halep’s most effective play was to pain the lines from side to side – and pick off a winner with drive volleys cross court – forcing Wozniacki to serve out the first set.

With over-enthusiastic shouts from the crowd irritating Wozniacki, Halep found herself with her first break point chances against the Dane’s serve. She may have struggled to begin with with her service games but the confidence was growing as she clattered down a hold to love to draw level at 5-5

Halep duly delivered in the pressure to force a tie-break but once again it was Wozniacki who got off to the quicker start, breaking Halep and the start and the end of the tie-break to take the first set – her first in a Slam final.

It was imperative for Halep to start well in the second set and although she held her opening game, danger was not far behind as Wozniacki pressured her with four break points, all withstood by the Romanian, living dangerously.

With a twist to the tale though – Halep called the physio out and had her blood pressure checked in the humid and muggy conditions. With the atmosphere strangely subdued, Halep made a good fist of at least holding her serve, especially with a lucky net-cord but Wozniacki certainly looked to be the sharper of the two, as Halep’s speed definitely took a dip.

Although it looked like it was Halep struggling maybe with cramp, she broke the Dane who passed up three break point chances while Halep converted on her third set point to level the match.

The muggy humid conditions meant that the heat rule was in place – with a much needed 10 minute break. The question would be – who would benefit the most from the break? Halep who looked to be cramping up towards the end of the set, or Wozniacki, who had the match on her racquet only to falter somehow.

First blood went to Wozniacki as she jumped to a 2-0 lead but nerves were palpable for both players, with four straight breaks of serve before Halep got a much needed hold.

With pressure building on Wozniacki, Halep seemed to gain a little more confidence and pnce more was proving devastating in cross court exchanges. It was a break for Halep that put her in the lead for the first time in the set, as Wozniacki called for the trainer for her knee to be taped.

This match was not done as Wozniacki piled on the pressure to break straight back and with a hold, she was one break away from her first Slam. Fittingly the rally of the match brought up championship point, with a an error netted to give Wozniacki the win.

More to follow

 

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