Coming up top in the list of the WTA Top 5 Comebacks of the Year is arguably one of the most impactful matches of the year as well — not only it changed the way how the entire WTA season would have gone, but rather it paved the way for a dream come true. Caroline Wozniacki’s dream came true when she won the 2018 Australian Open, but she had to do it in a hard way.
En route to her historic triumph in Melbourne, Wozniacki had to endure through several tough challenges in the process. In the second round, the unheralded Jana Fett was just an inch away from kicking out the eventual champion — just a couple of millimetres away in fact. Wozniacki survived that challenge and worked her way back to the impressive victory having saved two match points along the way.
That win proved to have made a huge difference in Wozniacki’s entire career despite it coming against the 119th-ranked player in the world. She became the first Danish woman in history to have won a Grand Slam title and ultimately returning to the top of the rankings for a total of four weeks this year.
Fett stuns Wozniacki in terrific opening set
An extremely slow start from Wozniacki saw her producing three unforced errors, which gifted Fett the opening break of serve. Failing to step up to the occasion yet, Fett’s nerves were reflective in her game as she immediately returned the favour to her higher-ranked and more experienced opponent.
However, that little setdown did not affect her mentality as the underdog stepped up her game and became more aggressive against the Dane, claiming the third consecutive break to start the match with. This time, she was able to consolidate her break for a comfortable 3-1 lead.
Shrugging off the early rust, Wozniacki found her groove and started to fire on all cylinders. She found some perfect serves and did not lose a single point in her next two service games. However, the second-ranked player was unable to find a breakthrough on the return with Fett being too solid and consistent.
It was some high-quality tennis from the Croatian, who is a relatively unknown figure to the rest of the world. Her forehands proved to be too good for the eventual champion and rattled off eight consecutive points to take the first set 6-3, finding five straight forehand winners inscribed within those streak of points.
Wozniacki fights back for a deciding set
Fett’s intensity level in the second set dropped as expected — but she still maintained a certain quality in her game as she battled past several unforced errors to close out her opening service hold with yet another forehand winner. Wozniacki found herself in deep trouble but rebounded to save two break points with some smart play; attacking the backhands of Fett which saw her claim the nervy hold to level the scoreboard.
That proved to be a crucial momentum shift as Wozniacki went to claim four consecutive games, grabbing a 4-1 lead despite all four games going 30-30. Another marathon game arrived but this time it was Fett who cleaned up her game and sealed one of the breaks back with a terrific forehand winner.
A slight hiccup in Fett’s game saw her committing a slew of unforced errors, and Wozniacki took full advantage of them to take the second set 6-2 and levelled the match at one-set all.
Wozniacki mounts an incredible comeback from 1-5 down
The final set was truly a classic.
Fighting against Wozniacki’s momentum, Fett survived a tense opening game of the final set as she fired a backhand winner to save a break point which ultimately paved the way for her to grab the confidence-boosting hold. She was the more aggressive player out on the court and Wozniacki retreated into her hole, soon finding herself down 0-40 on serve with two double-faults and a backhand error.
Fett returned the favour with consecutive errors, allowing Wozniacki to get onto the scoreboard in the decider. The first breakthrough in the match came in the fourth game, and it surprisingly went to the Croatian. A poor volley error from Wozniacki gifted Fett the first break of the final set, and she easily consolidated it for a commanding 4-1 lead within a blink of an eye.
Errors came from every part of Wozniacki’s usually-consistent game and the Dane dug a 1-5 deficit for herself to escape from. The scorching sun in Melbourne always made the top players prone and vulnerable to upsets and this was surprisingly not an exception.
Fett served for the match and had two match points at 40-15, with a first serve just being millimetres wide on her first opportunity. Her big-stage experience was certainly lacking when the pressure weighed on her shoulders — hitting three straight backhand errors and Wozniacki was given a free lifeline.
She then went on to claim 12 of the next 16 points to level the scores at 5-5 with Fett looking out-of-sorts and unable to replicate the type of tennis she produced which pushed her to the dominating 5-1 lead. Wozniacki, being mentally stronger, made experience count as she sealed six games on the trot to claim the win eventually.
Wozniacki reacts to her improbable comeback victory
Speaking about her comeback, Wozniacki was absolutely happy about how she turned the tables and grabbed the win ultimately, “I'm very proud of the way I came back. It was definitely very difficult. Definitely wasn't my best match, especially in the beginning. It was very different conditions. I just tried to mentally stay focused, tried to play my game. It was very hard, and she was playing well. All of a sudden seeing myself down, almost out of the tournament, I started playing better and started really playing the tennis that I wanted to play.”
In matches like this, mentality plays a huge part in deciding the outcome. In this situation, Fett failed to deal with the pressure while Wozniacki was the calmer player out on the court. “I think generally speaking, tennis is a very mental game. You can have the best forehand or the best backhand in the game, but it's all important how you figure out the shots, where to play the next point. Also I think when you're feeling confident and you go for more and things go your way, sometimes if you're in a rough patch, it's tough to get out of it because players start doubting their abilities even though they're great players.”