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“Sunshine” Caroline Wozniacki’s Dreams Finally Come True • Wins 2018 Australian Open Tennis

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark poses with her trophy after winning the women’s singles final against Simona Halep of Romania at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 27 January 2018. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH

 

 

Chasing the dream her entire tennis life, Caroline Wozniacki made one final rousing run to realize it.

 

World No. 1 Simona Halep was six points from her first Grand Slam crown holding a 4-3 lead in the final set when Wozniacki staged a career-defining comeback.

 

The second-ranked Wozniacki surged through the last three games edging Halep, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4, in a pulsating Australian Open final to capture her maiden major in her third Grand Slam final.

 

On a steamy Saturday night in Melbourne, Wozniacki vanquished Grand Slam ghosts and a gallant Halep in a glorious two hour, 50-minute fight.

 

The crowd serenaded a smiling Wozniacki to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” while Wozniacki embraced the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup like a long-lost friend she couldn’t let go.

 

In her 43rd career Grand Slam tournament, Wozniacki achieved her major moment in dream style. The 27-year-old Wozniacki won her maiden major, the champion’s check for $4 million Australian dollars, became the first Dane to claim a Grand Slam and will wake up on Monday morning as the world No. 1—exactly six years to the day since she last held the top spot, which is a WTA record for the longest gap between times at the top.

 

“Obviously that’s very special,” Wozniacki said. “I think being new Grand Slam champion and world No. 1 sounds pretty good. I’m very excited for that. It’s a dream come true.”

 

It was a turbulent test of legs, lungs and resilience with each woman taking a medical timeout. In the end, Wozniacki won precisely two more points than Halep (110 to 108) joining Monica Seles (1991 semifinals), Jennifer Capriati (2002 final), Serena Williams (2003 semifinals) and Angelique Kerber (2016 first round) as the fifth woman to win the Australian Open after saving a match point during the tournament.

 

Wozniacki fought off a pair of match points and a 1-5 deficit in the decider surging through six straight games to rally past No.119 Jana Fett in the second round. Struggle can be strengthening: Despite a third-set medical timeout, Wozniacki kept churning and delivered some timely drives down the line to capture her maiden major.

 

Simona Halep of Romania hold her trophy after being defeated in her women’s singles final match by Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark at the women’s singles final at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 27 January 2018. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH

It’s a bitterly disappointing defeat for Halep, who competed with the steely determination and courage she exhibited throughout the tournament only to fall in her third Grand Slam final.

 

Last June, she led Jelena Ostapenko by a set and 3-0 before the 20-year-old Latvian rolled through 12 of the final 16 games hitting Halep right off the court, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, to capture her first career championship in the Roland Garros final.

 

“[It’s] not easy to talk now,” Halep told the appreciative crowd in Rod Laver Arena. “I want to congratulate Caroline, she played amazing all the tournament. It’s unbelievable what you have done. Congrats and good luck in the future.

 

“It’s been a great tournament. I started not very well with an ankle injury. I just wanted to give my best every match, which I did. Of course, I’m sad I did not win today, but Caroline was better then me. For sure I will fight and I have many years to go and hopefully I will face another challenge like today.”

 

On a steamy evening, the top-seeded Halep was a bit tight at the start, while Wozniacki burst out of the blocks with purpose. The second seed earned the first break at 30 in the second game then backed up the break bursting out to a 3-0 lead.

 

Racing through a frenetic point in the seventh game helped Wozniacki hold for 5-2. Halep responded with a flurry of forehand winners holding in the eighth game.

 

Serving for the set, Wozniacki grew shaky shoveling a forehand approach long—her third unforced error of the game—to face triple break point. Wozniacki, who paused to complain about the crowd cheering, tried to dig out of trouble. Sliding a 108 mph ace down the T, she saved the second break point only to see Halep take charge with her forehand. Blonde braid bouncing off her back, Wozniacki pushed a forehand long as Halep broke back for 4-5.

 

In the tie break, Wozniacki showed bold initiative following a forehand down the line forward to drill a drive volley winner for the mini break. Halep curled her third ace out wide for 1-2. Throughout the set, Halep elevated her aggression when down. Continuing that pattern, she smacked a forehand swing volley down the line for 2-4.

 

Wozniacki absorbed all the pace in the ensuing rally hitting a backhand down the line then followed with a mid-court forehand down the middle earning four set points. Cracking open the point with a diagonal backhand, Wozniacki closed the 51-minute opener to move one set from her maiden major title.

 

On a scorching evening, Halep took a medical timeout after holding for a 3-2 second-set lead. With an ice towel wrapped around her neck, Halep had her blood pressure checked about 80 minutes into the match before returning to action.

 

Stretching out her leg again, Halep laced a forehand down the line breaking for 5-3 then squatting behind the baseline as if testing the stability of her leg.

 

The two-time US Open finalist kept the ball moving side-to-side as Halep tried to serve out the set.

 

Amping up her aggression in the face of growing fatigue, Halep denied two break points then saved a third—her seventh break point erased in the set—then used the forehand drop shot to set up a forehand to snatch the set and level the match after 99 minutes.

 

Caroline Wozniacki (L) of Denmark shake hands with Simona Halep (R) of Romania after winning the women’s singles final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 27 January 2018. EPA-EFE/DEAN LEWINS

“I was really tired,” Halep said. “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.”

 

Both women left the court for a 10-minute break due to the extreme heat policy. Looking depleted in the swelter, Halep’s second serve began to lose some of its sting. Wozniacki stepped in and crunched a forehand return breaking for a 2-0 lead in the decider.

 

Attacking the Romanian’s second serve with vigor, Wozniacki roared through four straight points for a love break and a 3-1 lead. By then, the blonde Dane had won all eight points on Halep’s second serve in the final set. Though Halep looked wearier, she went into warrior mode attacking her forehand with menacing intent breaking back in the fifth game.

 

Energized by holding to level, Halep spun a backhand for love-30. Though Wozniacki got the game back to deuce, her forehand failed her under pressure. Clanking consecutive forehand misses, Wozniacki ceded the break and a 4-3 lead to the top seed then took a medical timeout for treatment of her left knee.

 

With a small bandage on her left knee, Wozniacki’s will was evident when she whipped a forehand drive volley to level—the sixth break in eight service games of the set.

 

Serving to stay in the match, Halep was jerking her opponent side to side in a daring 16-shot rally that featured a net-cord, swing volley and determined retrievals from both women. Halep flicked a desperate backhand get over the net when Wozniacki burst ahead and spun her forehand down the line landing championship point.

 

Halep went down swinging netting a backhand as Wozniacki tossed her black-and-yellow Babolat racquet aside and fell flat on her back shedding tears of joy.

 

Fittingly, it was an emotional finish line for the woman who completed the New York City marathon four years ago and relied on her legs, guts and grit to get over the Grand Slam line.

 

“Honestly, you know, nobody knows how much work, dedication you put into it,” Wozniacki said. “All I could tell myself was, You know what, you’ve given it everything you have. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. If not, then at least you know you’ve given it everything you’ve got and you can be proud of any achievement.

 

“Obviously adding a Grand Slam to my CV is what caps it off and really, I think, shows my whole career as a whole.”

 

Editors Note: Great Match. Big congrats to Caro. Yes, she was number 1 without a Slam. Now she will be WTA number 1 with a Slam. But she always deserved it. She paid her dues. She worked hard. She stayed fit. She really shows GRIT. She made all of us with Danish heritage proud.

But. What was up with the Chair Umpire towards the end of the third set making a baseline over rule?…. Sounds like a questionable Chair Umpire. ..She rattled Halep at a crucial time… Was that her intention?…. Her over rule was wrong – as the playback showed… 

WTA tennis is strong & has great depth! • 2018 AO • As great a final as you’ll ever see!

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark attends a press conference after winning the women’s singles final against Simona Halep of Romania at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 27 January 2018. EPA-EFE/TRACEY NEARMY

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