One of Simona Halep or Caroline Wozniacki will finally end their slam drought on Saturday when they face off in the Australian Open final. Both have faced criticism during their time spent at No. 1, having not had a grand slam to their name at the time. Halep has twice lost French Open finals while Wozniacki is a two-time US Open finalist. In addition, Wozniacki can move back to the top spot in the rankings for the first time since 2012 with a win.
Both women have faced adversity on their way to the finals, having had to save multiple match points on their way to the final. Wozniacki’s surprise struggles vs Jana Fett ended in her needed to come from 1-5 down in the third to win the match. Other than that, it hasn’t been the toughest of times for her with only Carla Suarez Navarro managing to win a set from the Dane. The in-form Elise Mertens finally saw her first loss of the season against Wozniacki, but put up a good fight in losing 3-6 6-7.
There was a period in which Wozniacki dropped rapidly down the rankings, partly due to injury but also due to lack of form. It speaks wonders of her that she has worked to get back to the top again even when there were many doubters. “I always believed in myself. I had a tough period where I had a few injuries. That was kind of hard and tough mentally. But once I got past that, I knew that if I can stay healthy and I work hard, my game is good enough for it.” she said.
While Wozniacki never really looked like winning either of her slam finals, it’s a different story for Halep who lost two tough three setters. Maria Sharapova defeated her in an epic 2014 final but the 2017 loss to Jelena Ostapenko really has to sting for her. She led a set and 3-0 before the Latvian unleashed a bunch of brutal winners on her way to a comeback victory. The World No.1 feels like things have changed for her since then though. “I feel more experienced. Also stronger mentally. And the way I play, it’s different. I feel I’m more aggressive.” she said.
Halep saved match points again in the semi-final, this time on return with Angelique Kerber serving for the match at *6-5. She broke from 40-15 and went on to win three of the next 4 games to close the match out. That extra aggression was definitely on show with Halep hitting a huge 50 winners against the German. She will face a similar kind of threat to Kerber in the final so may not have to deviate from her tactics too much. “The way she’s playing, she’s not missing. She’s running very well. So she’s a strong opponent.” she said. Their last meeting was massively one sided as Wozniacki dominated at the WTA Year End Championships, winning 0 and 2. With both in form, such a disastrous result seems unlikely and it may all be down to whoever can hold their nerve, with the big one finally coming for one of the women.
Prediction – Caroline Wozniacki in three sets