Australian Open Day 13 Preview: The Women’s Final

Australian Open Day 13 Preview: The Women’s Final

It’s the number one player in the world against the number two player in the world. In an era of instability atop the women’s game, this is a rarity in a Grand Slam final. Both women are two-time major finalists hoping the third time is the charm to win their first Grand Slam title. Adding to the significance of this match, the number one ranking is also on the line. The past two decades have been dominated by big serving and big hitting women, especially on hard courts, so it’s refreshing to have two of the best defensive players square off in a major final. But it’s the improved offensive play from both players that has brought them to this championship match.

Simona Halep vs. Caroline Wozniacki

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I cannot remember a more traumatic road to a major final than the path Simona Halep has taken to arrive here on Saturday. The World Number turned her ankle during her opening round, causing speculation as to whether she would even be able to finish that match, let alone play again two days later. In her third round match against Lauren Davis, Halep had to save three match points in an almost four-hour match to eventually win 15-13 in the third set. And in the semifinals, Halep again saved match points and won an extended third set 9-7 to take out Angelique Kerber in an exhausting battle. After all that, it would be cruel for Halep to again go home without the trophy.

Simona Halep’s fighting spirit has been extremely impressive, especially considering her past reputation for becoming negative too quickly when falling behind in a match. Halep had quite a dramatic year in 2017. She was up a set and 3-0 in the French Open final against a relative unknown 20-year-old who had never won a tour title, but allowed herself to be hit off the court and have the title stolen from her. Over the summer, there were multiple matches where Simona was one match away from gaining the number one ranking for the first time, only to lose those matches. Halep finally got the number one ranking at the China Open close to the end of the season. It’s so nice to see a newly-anointed WTA number one not be overwhelmed by the crown, as Simona has more than proven she’s worthy of her ranking during this fortnight.

Caroline Wozniacki appeared in her first major final almost a decade ago at the 2009 US Open, but is still in search of her first major title. With a total of 67 weeks as the number one player, Wozniacki carries around the burden of being the best WTA player to have never won a Grand Slam event. Less than eighteen months ago, after struggling with form and injuries, Caroline arrived at the US Open ranked outside the top 70. But she has since turned her career around, with the end of 2017 being the peak of her career to date. A few weeks after winning the Premier event in Tokyo, she won the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals.

Wozniacki’s tournament has not been as tumultuous as Halep’s, but like Halep, she did save match points along the way. In her second round match against Jana Fett, Caroline was down 5-1 before winning six straight games to survive. Her level has considerably risen since, comfortably winning the rest of her matches on the way to this final.

Halep may be the number one seed, but Wozniacki leads their head-to-head 4-2. Caroline has taken their last three meetings, with the most recent just a few months ago at the WTA Finals. Halep won only two games in that match. Both women should be eager to continue to thinking more offensive-mindedly on the court. The winner will likely be the player who dictates play. The winner will also likely be the player who better controls their emotions. Which woman is more ready to conquer the demons of their past and win their first major title? I’m tempted to question if Halep has enough left physically and emotionally after all she’s been through in the past 12 days, but she already bounced back from an almost four-match earlier in the tournament to easily win her next two rounds. Unfortunately I’m still not fully convinced Wozniacki will avoid reverting back to her more comfortable defensive mode in a big match like this, especially against a player who is as good at defense as she is. Based on the determination I’ve seen from the world number one in Melbourne, my pick is Simona Halep.

Player comparison

Simona Halep

Caroline Wozniacki

AGE

26

27

CURRENT RANKING

1

2

WTA TITLES

16

27

BEST GRAND SLAM PERFORMANCE

French Open finalist (2014, 2017), Australian Open final (2018)

US Open finalist (2009, 2014), Australian Open finalist (2018)
CAREER PRIZE MONEY
(not counting 2018 Australian Open)

$20,912,291

$26,856,094

 

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