After years of disappointment and discouraging defeats, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki won the first Grand Slam title of her career Saturday evening in Melbourne.
Wozniacki, 27, beat 26-year-old Simona Halep, the No. 1 seed, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4 in a hot, humid and tense final that lasted nearly three hours. The match was compelling from the start, with long rallies and tight games. Wozniacki earned match point with a forehand winner after an incredible rally. The match ended when Halep hit a backhand into the net. Wozniacki is the first player from Denmark, man or woman, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament.
As of Monday, Wozniacki will be the No. 1 ranked player in the world for the second time in her career. The first came six years ago, a record-long gap between two separate top rankings, according to the WTA tennis tour.
“It’s a dream come true,” Wozniacki said with tears in her eyes. “My voice is shaking.”
This was the 43rd Grand Slam appearance of Wozniacki’s career. Last year at this time, Wozniacki was ranked No. 20 and seemed to be heading toward the end of her career, not the finest moment of it. But she has since remodeled her style and now hits more aggressively in matches than ever before.
In the first set, Wozniacki broke Halep’s serve early but Halep made a comeback late in the set when she was trailing 5-3. The two went on to a tiebreaker, in which Wozniacki took a lead and never looked back.
Halep, who played many tough matches in the tournament, had her blood pressure and heart rate checked early in the second set. She looked hurt in subsequent games, as she kept touching her left thigh. Somehow, though, this made Halep go for even more winners. She broke serve and won the set. The players were then given a 10-minute break because of heat in the high 80s and the humidity.
In the third set, Halep’s serve slowed down and she began going for broke on her strokes. For a while, it worked. Trailing 2-0, she broke Wozniacki’s serve after playing 18 points in the game. Wozniacki immediately broke back, but Halep returned the favor again in the next game. She then took a 4-3 lead, up a break, before Wozniacki made a remarkable comeback and won the last three games to win the title.
“She played amazing,” Halep said. “I have many years to go so hopefully I will face another challenge like today.”
The final was a fine conclusion to a wild and entertaining women’s tournament in Melbourne. Both Wozniacki and Halep saved matched points—one point from defeat—in other matches they played (Halep saved match points in two separate matches).
As important as the victory is for Wozniacki, the defeat stings for Halep, who, like Wozniacki, was playing the third Grand Slam final of her career after losing her first two.
The entertaining match was the last of many in this year’s Australian Open women’s draw, in which no match ended in retirement and many were three-set battles. Wozniacki said she was proud to win, and to receive the trophy that she called by name, Daphne, named after former Australian champion Daphne Akhurst.
“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Wozniacki said. “I’m going to bring her to the airport. It’s going to be great.”