Australian Open: Caroline Wozniacki stuns Simona Halep for maiden Grand Slam trophy, returns to number one

A tense and thrilling 2018 Australian Open went in the way of second seed Caroline Wozniacki as she shocked the world number one Simona Halep in the final, and will reclaim the top spot on Monday.

Australian Open: Caroline Wozniacki stuns Simona Halep for maiden Grand Slam trophy, returns to number one
Caroline Wozniacki was in tears after triumphing in the thriller | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac
Caroline Wozniacki
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Simona Halep

In what could be one of the best finals in recent history, the world number one and two clashed in the Championship match of the 2018 Australian Open as they battled for the title. Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki both saved match points en route to the showdown, and eventually it was the Dane who created history as she became the first Dane to claim a Major title, prevailing 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 after coming back from a break down in the deciding set to accomplish the amazing feat.

It was a match of stakes — the winner gets her maiden Grand Slam trophy and the world number one ranking. The pressure was weighing on both players’ shoulders and it motivated them to play some impressive tennis, putting up a good show for the 14,000 crowd in the Rod Laver Arena after two hours and 49 minutes.

Wozniacki and Halep poses with their respective trophies during the trophy ceremony | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac
Wozniacki and Halep pose with their respective trophies during the trophy ceremony | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac

Wozniacki overcomes nerves to take the first set

Going into the third Grand Slam finals of their respective careers, it was Wozniacki who had the lightning start to the highly-anticipated encounter between the top two players in the world. The Dane was clearly playing like a woman on a mission and she dictated play while forcing errors out of a slow-starting Halep. Finally getting onto the scoreboard with a comfortable love service hold, Halep lessened the deficit but her opponent was just too solid in her game.

Looking at her peak level, Wozniacki was playing for the number one spot and her performance was up to the task. Blasting out to a commanding 5-2 lead with her consistent and solid game, a repeat of their one-sided Singapore encounter seemed possible, especially with Halep being on the court for two more hours than Wozniacki and could be hindered by fatigue.

Caroline Wozniacki powers herself to a huge 5-2 lead within a blink of an eye | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac
Caroline Wozniacki powers herself to a huge 5-2 lead within a blink of an eye | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac

Within a blink of an eye, Halep’s fans finally had something to cheer for, with the Romanian stepping up her play and looked invincible, rattling off 12 of the next 16 points to level the scores at 5-5. A tiebreak soon ensued, but the second seed, Wozniacki, regained her composure and played some flawless tennis to take the tiebreak in emphatic fashion, claiming it 7-2. That was Wozniacki’s first-ever set won in a Grand Slam final.

Halep fights back and stuns Wozniacki

All the momentum was with Wozniacki and she was the overwhelming favorite to close out the victory. Everything was going in the Dane’s way, and Halep was visibly struggling with her fitness, and probably cramps, as the second seed earned four pivotal break points in the third game. Just when it mattered, Wozniacki lost her game plan — she started being ultra-passive and allowed Halep a way back into the encounter.

Simona Halep's fighting spirit was evidently shown throughout the match | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac
Simona Halep's fighting spirit was evidently shown throughout the match | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac

That was possibly the turning point of the match, as Halep ultimately breaking serve in the eighth game with the help of several Wozniacki unforced errors. Having called for the trainer previously, the world number one was struggling with cramps — especially after enduring through marathons earlier in the tournament but was able to fend off two nervy break points with two impressive winners, overcoming her nerves to complete the comeback. Saving all seven break points in the set, Halep once again managed to return from the brink.

Wozniacki steals the victory from a break down

After a lengthy 10-minute break due to the heat rule kicking in, it was Wozniacki who handled the pressure better while Halep continued to struggle with her fatigue. Another epic game followed, and this time after 12 minutes, it ended in an unfortunate way as Wozniacki threw in a double-fault on Halep’s sixth break point.

Simona Halep in action during her third Major final | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac
Simona Halep in action during her third Major final | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac

With both players getting physically-drained as the match progressed, they were unable to hold onto their service games and the situation became extremely tense with neither able to consistently find their first serves. The match was soon overwhelmed by unforced errors but Halep came out of nowhere to seal three consecutive wins, leading by 4-3 in the decider and edged closer than ever to the win.

Unfortunately, heartbreak soon followed for the Romanian once more, as she failed to take her chances and Wozniacki’s outstanding defensive skills saw her fend off the tough challenge from the world number one, winning all the crucial points. Serving to stay in the match, Halep unexpectedly sent in her first double-fault of the match at 30-15 up, and it effectively ruined her momentum totally. Failure to close out points while on the offense backfired in the cruelest way ever — and consecutive errors gifted Wozniacki her maiden Grand Slam title alongside the number one ranking.

It was a dream come true for Caroline Wozniacki | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac
It was a dream come true for Caroline Wozniacki | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac