Caroline Wozniacki will no longer have the spectre of being a slamless No.1 hanging over her after outlasting Simona Halep in the Australian Open final, 7-6 3-6 6-4. In addition to regaining the No.1 ranking, she becomes the first Scandinavian woman to win a slam in the Open Era and the second overall after Molla Burjstedt Mallory.
Wozniacki had lost both her previous grand slam finals in straight sets but she rushed out the gates in this one to find herself 5-2 up in the first set. A disastrous service game serving for the set saw her broken but she kept her composure to win the tiebreak with a minimum of fuss. With Halep struggling physically, the expectations of a lengthy match were not huge but she fought back to win the second set thanks to converting her one and only break point opportunity. She remained the more attacking of the two players, hitting 40 winners overall.
Wozniacki had gone 0-7 in the second set but broke twice on her way to a 3-1 lead in the decider only to be pegged back once more. The tension continued to rise with Halep hoping to avoid a third straight three set loss in a slam final. Breaking for *4-3, she was nearing ever closer but in failing to hold she gave the initiative right back to the Dane who held for 5-4. One of the points of the match came at 30-30, eventually ending with Wozniacki’s easy putaway after her backhand sent Halep so far wide that all she could do was tee up the Dane. Halep eventually hit a tame backhand into the net on match point to continue her misery in slam finals while Wozniacki fell to the floor in disbelief that she finally won her first.
Her comeback over the past 18 months has been extraordinary, as she fell outside the top 50 due to injuries. There were question marks over whether she would get back to being a top 10 player never mind a slam champion and she admits she shared some of these doubts. “I think you always, at certain points, especially when you start having injuries and stuff, you start maybe doubting if you’re ever going to be 100% healthy for longer periods of time.” she said.
Time finally caught up with Halep after so many long matches throughout the tournament but staying tough with Wozniacki for as long as she did is still worthy of credit. “I had so many problems at my feet, pain everywhere. But, you know, I think I did pretty well with all the things that were going on. After the first set, I just was out. I don’t know what happened. No energy, no power. But then I just said that I have to hit all the balls, and then I could take the second set.” Halep said. The Romanian’s time will still surely come with her probably being the best pure clay player right now.
For now though, it’s Wozniacki that gets the celebrations. She was down 5-1 and match points to Jana Fett earlier in the fortnight but that is all forgotten. “From being almost out of the tournament to sitting here with the Australian Open trophy, it’s amazing. It’s been quite a turnaround, something I’m very proud of.”