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http://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2018/01/caroline-wozniacki-simona-halep-2018-australian-open-final-steve-flink/71732/



As Caroline Wozniacki realized a lifelong dream by capturing the Australian Open in a harrowing three-set skirmish against Simona Halep, it called to mind the words of the esteemed journalist Pete Hamill. He once wrote, “The true athlete teaches us that winning isn’t everything, but struggle is—the struggle to simply get up in the morning or to see hope through the minefields of despair... In life, defeat and victory are inseparable brothers.”

Hamill’s outlook on sports and the larger game of life was exemplified by both Wozniacki and Halep throughout their long struggle for survival in one of the most hard fought and compelling women’s major finals I have seen over the past decade. In this 2:49 confrontation on Rod Laver Arena, the laudable Wozniacki secured the first set, dropped the second, built two significant early leads in the third, but ultimately had to rescue herself when she was twice six points from defeat in the final set. Wozniacki’s iron will, supreme discipline and extraordinary composure enabled her to stop a determined Halep, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4.

The stakes for this first Grand Slam tournament final of 2018 were even more substantial than is normally the case on such occasions. Here was the No. 2 seed from Denmark colliding with the top seed from Romania. They were playing for the No. 1 world ranking. They were each fighting for their first major title after losing two previous finals at the Grand Slam events. Not since Victoria Azarenka toppled Maria Sharapova in the 2012 Australian Open title round contest had the No. 1 ranking been up for grabs in a final at a Grand Slam tournament.

Never before had a woman from Denmark secured a major title in singles, and the last time a Romanian woman came through at one of the majors was when Virginia Ruzici took the crown at Roland Garros back in 1978. In the case of Wozniacki, she was competing in her 43rd career major. Only three players—Flavia Pennetta, Marion Bartoli and Jana Novotna had appeared in more Grand Slam finals before making the breakthrough and claiming a first singles title. Halep, too, had been in pursuit of the most prestigious prizes for a very long time; this was her 31st major.

At the outset, Wozniacki was setting the tempo and ruling from the backcourt with uncanny ball control, depth and precision. She was utterly controlling the proceedings. The 27-year-old held at 15 in the opening game, and then broke Halep at 30 with three outright winners in that game—including two with her trademark two-hander down the line. Perhaps more than any other shot, the backhand down the line took Wozniacki into the victory column.

Wozniacki was up 2-0, and soon she held at 30 for 3-0 with a forehand crosscourt winner. Her mastery in the rallies was unassailable. Her cool authority was strikingly evident. In those first three games, she took 12 of 17 points. Halep found her bearings in the fourth game with a love hold. But the top seed was making almost no impression on Wozniacki’s serve as the Dane backed up her delivery convincingly on her way to a 5-2 lead. In four service games, Wozniacki had won 16 of 21 points with clean efficiency.

Yet Halep was not ready to concede the set. She held at 30 for 3-5. Serving for the set, Wozniacki was exceedingly tight. She drifted to 15-40, served an ace, but lost that game at 30 on a timid sliced forehand down the line that landed long. Halep was back in business. Now hitting out much more freely off the ground, serving with improved accuracy, covering the court with alacrity, Halep released two aces and held at love. To 5-5 she travelled.

Both players held to set up a tie-break. Halep seemed to have the momentum on her side of the net as she headed into that crucial sequence, but it was Wozniacki who was the far superior player. She opened with a forehand swing volley winner, and soon established a 2-0 tie-break lead. Halep took the next point but Wozniacki was unwavering. She moved methodically to 4-1, dropped the next point and then advanced to 5-2 with a well struck forehand down the line, followed by a backhand down the line. A hurried Halep missed off the forehand on the run. It was 5-2 for Wozniacki. She promptly took both points on her serve to win the tie-break 7-2. Wozniacki did not drop a point on her serve in the tie-break.


[---------- Detailed match analysis ---------------]



Caroline Wozniacki had deservedly carved out the single most important triumph of her career. It was a classic final, but not quite an epic. Yet it was the best played Australian Open final I have seen since Jennifer Capriati upended Martina Hingis in 2002, when Capriati saved four match points to take the title in three sets with indomitable spirit. The only other Open Era finals Down Under that I would place above this one would be Martina Navratilova’s 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5 win over Chris Evert in 1981, and Monica Seles’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Stephanie Graf in 1993.

Wozniacki won this title the hard way, controlling the match early on and eventually salvaging the first set, losing the second set, and falling behind late in the third set before sweeping three games in a row for the crown when she seemed in jeopardy. Down the stretch, it was Wozniacki’s retrieving that helped her to succeed, but earlier her well measured aggression was the leading feature of her play.

Wozniacki is an entirely worthy Australian Open champion. Her professionalism and perspicacity carried her to the win. Meanwhile, Halep was an honorable runner-up. She was beaten, but Halep bowed out in style. She would do well to take heed of Hamill’s powerful words. Halep must remember that victory and defeat are indeed inseparable brothers. No one understands that notion better than Wozniacki.
 

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I think it was a fantastic match. Us tennis nerds focus too much on pure qualoty. But a great match is one thats exciting, have ups and downs where you feel both can win different momemts and catches the attention of the average person. People who dont usually follow tennis watched this and got caught on the rollercoaster and saw 2 girls that left everything on court. I think reading the reaction of people on twitter. It was a match that is very well received
 

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The first set was very high quality. I need to watch the highlights again. :)
 

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Depends. One of the best 5? Best 10? Best 20?

Good baseline slugfest, but the quality wasn't exactly the stuff of legend. The best highlight was Wozniacki's retrieval for Championship point. Was also one beautiful cross-court backhand Wozniacki clobbered in the first set that was like it came from Djokovic.

In this tournament, there was better shot-making in Halep-Kerber, and Halep-Davis.
 

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Which Oz open finals were better this decade in terms of nearness & drama?
Kerber/Serena and Serena/Henin. I'd put it third behind those. Serena/Henin obviously wasn't as close in the third set but the quality was sky-high.
but thats the thing....drama is more important than pure quality in a final. If you look back at any sport. People remember the drama long after. Pefect example was the nba final when cavs won with a 3 from kyrie. The quality last 5 min of that match was bad with both teams making bad decisions. But it went to the wire and thats all people remember
 

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I think it was a fantastic match. Us tennis nerds focus too much on pure qualoty. But a great match is one thats exciting, have ups and downs where you feel both can win different momemts and catches the attention of the average person. People who dont usually follow tennis watched this and got caught on the rollercoaster and saw 2 girls that left everything on court. I think reading the reaction of people on twitter. It was a match that is very well received
Quality matters. Djokovic and Nadal's 6-hour slugfest in 2012 was dramatic as hell with many ups and downs, but many ATP fans found it to be far too physical between 2 players that should have taken more offensive risks.
 

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but thats the thing....drama is more important than pure quality in a final. If you look back at any sport. People remember the drama long after. Pefect example was the nba final when cavs won with a 3 from kyrie. The quality last 5 min of that match was bad with both teams making bad decisions. But it went to the wire and thats all people remember
Kerber/Serena and Serena/Henin didn't exactly lack drama. Kerber/Serena was just as close and dramatic at its climax.
 

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but thats the thing....drama is more important than pure quality in a final. If you look back at any sport. People remember the drama long after. Pefect example was the nba final when cavs won with a 3 from kyrie. The quality last 5 min of that match was bad with both teams making bad decisions. But it went to the wire and thats all people remember
That is right, it was like a gladiator's arena that night. I was getting quite concerned one of them will collapse. Pushing to their mental and physical limit... unadulterated by PED (I bet no tennis player out there will dare after what happened to Maria)
 

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Exciting yes but then again some 15k qualifiers are exciting as well

Quality wise it was up with the 15k qualifiers
 
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This was so important in the perception of how good they are. They both are tremendous and by the end of 2020 might be in the top 5 of the 2010-2020 discussion
But this was one match for their first major, one would still be slamless, and Wozniacki was up a break in set 3, then Halep was. Very rare in a slam final set 3
I think it was as entertaining as any slam final match I've seen going back to Venus/Davenport at Wimbledon
 
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