Wozniacki reaches final
Caroline Wozniacki is just one win away from ending her 13-year pursuit of Grand Slam silverware
The former world No.1 used her experience and know-how to defeat Elise Mertens 6-3 7-6(2) and reach the final of the Australian Open.
It’s the third time the Dane has made it to the championship match of a Grand Slam, and she will challenge either Simona Halep or Angelique Kerber for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup on Saturday evening.
It was almost the perfect afternoon for Wozniacki. For the majority of the contest she served superbly, defended expertly and cracked her world-class backhand with intent.
A single break achieved in each set appeared to be sufficient for the 27-year-old to stroll into the final without a moments hesitation, however she faltered when serving for the match.
She regrouped though, and negotiated a tricky period before dominating the tiebreak to earn another precious shot at major glory.
“It means so much to me to be in the final,” said a beaming Wozniacki, who is currently situated at No.1 in the live WTA Rankings. “I got really tight at 5-4 [in the second set] and there were a couple of double-faults.
“I thought after the first couple of points on serve it was all good, but then it wasn’t so good anymore. I felt like I was hitting against a wall. In the semi-finals here against Li Na in 2011 I was serving for the match, and I had a match-point before losing it.
“It was definitely on my mind out there today, but I just tried to stay calm and was lucky to get the win.”
Wozniacki was expected to reach the semi-finals, but it was unchartered territory for Mertens.
The Belgian, who had not dropped a set en route to the last four, looked decidedly shaky in the early stages and she was perhaps guilty of pulling the trigger too early in the baseline exchanges.
Her aggressive approach meant she had little margin for error, and there were more mistakes than winners from her racket in the first set. The 22-year-old dropped serve in the fourth game after a pair of loose forehands and she was unable to recover the deficit.
The world No.2 looked entirely at ease on Rod Laver Arena, and her support team were enjoying their time in the Melbourne sunshine. In the second set, the Dane capitalised on a poor service game from Mertens to move 3-2 ahead and a first Australian Open final appearance was in sight.
Wozniacki was a game away from victory, but she was unable to apply the finishing touches. Two double-faults did little to help her cause - and the Belgian had an unexpected reprieve.
Mertens had renewed belief as she attempted to muscle her way back into contention. She carved out two set-points in the 12th game, but was denied by some purposeful play by the Dane.
Wozniacki held on and forced a tiebreak, and she was deperate to avoid the tension of a third set. She upped the quality of her ball-striking when it really counted though, and finished with a flourish.