Wozniacki breaks through
Just 10 days ago, Caroline Wozniacki was two match points away from being knocked out of the Australian Open in the second round.
Now, she has claimed the first Grand Slam title of her career after overcoming Simona Halep 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4 in a pulsating, high-quality final.
“I've dreamed of this moment for so many years,” said the Dane after claiming a long-awaited victory.
“Today is a dream come true.”
Perhaps spurred on by all those years of dreaming, Wozniacki looked determined to seize this opportunity from the off, hitting with real depth and intent as she broke Halep at the first time of asking and established a 3-0 lead.
A naturally defensive player, few had foreseen Wozniacki approaching this encounter with such aggression and abandon, potentially including Halep, who looked a little taken aback by the Dane’s opening salvo.
But the world No.1 picked the perfect moment to rediscover her poise, breaking Wozniacki as she served for the opening set and then levelling proceedings at 5-5.
The Dane rose to the challenge in front of her, though, getting to 6-6 before playing a brilliant, attacking tie-break that delivered her the first set.
The No.2 seed pushed for an early opening in the second set too, but was denied at 1-1 as Halep held onto her serve after fending off four break points in an epic game that lasted more than 11 minutes.
It felt like a crucial moment, but perhaps more important was how both women were dealing with the stifling conditions on Rod Laver Arena.
Such was the humidity that the WTA’s Heat Rule was put into effect, allowing for a 10-minute break should the match go to a third set. Halep in particular looked to be struggling, having her blood pressure taken at 3-2 down as the heat took its toll.
But a decider was nonetheless forthcoming when the Romanian took advantage of a dip in Wozniacki’s level to break for 5-3. Halep did get over the line in the following game, but only after she had failed to convert two set points - one due to a horror forehand miss - and saved a break point.
As the pair took their leave for an extended break, it was clear the third set would be as much a physical contest as mental. Where the first set had been of an immensely high-quality, the second was much more gruelling affair. Halep had at times been spotted clutching her left thigh, while Wozniacki too was toiling.
But on they went, and after Wozniacki opened proceedings in the third set with a hold of serve, the pair embarked on a run of four consecutive breaks, the most remarkable of which was an 11-minute game at 2-0, which culminated with Halep converting her sixth break point.
It was the Romanian who broke that streak, and she followed it up with what looked like a decisive break that put her 4-3 in the lead.
Meanwhile, Wozniacki called for the trainer to treat her left knee, and at that point one feared for her title chances, with the gruelling nature of the encounter appearing to catch up with her.
But the Dane’s Australian Open campaign has been characterised by an increase in her resolve, a reinforcement of her mental steel, and she picked herself up from the virtual canvas to claim the next three games, clinching a long-awaited victory when Halep found the net.