Saturday, January 27, 2018

Wozniacki tops Halep in classic for first major title

Caroline Wozniacki, playing at Indian Wells last
March, regained the top ranking for the first time
since October 2010. Photo by Paul Bauman
   In her 12th year on the WTA tour and third Grand Slam final, Caroline Wozniacki finally won a major.   Playing tremendous defense against a valiant opponent, the second-seeded Wozniacki outdueled top-ranked Simona Halep 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4 today in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Halep ran Wozniacki from side to side throughout the match, but the 27-year-old Dane repeatedly chased down the 26-year-old Romanian's rockets.
   Both players had physical issues on a hot, humid night. Halep had her blood pressure taken in the middle of the second set and then hobbled on her left leg. After Halep broke for 4-3 in the third set, Wozniacki took a medical timeout to have tape applied under her left knee but broke back for 4-4.
   Wozniacki then held serve and broke Halep to end the match after a tense 2 hours, 49 minutes. After Halep double-faulted for 30-30, Wozniacki not only made a great backhand get, her cross-court reply swung Halep wide and set up a forehand putaway for break point. A wilting Halep then missed her first serve and netted a forehand.
   Wozniacki regained the top ranking for the first time since October 2010 and became the first Danish Grand Slam singles champion. Halep, like Wozniacki, was 0-2 in Grand Slam finals entering the match.
   It was the first major tournament in the Open era (since 1968) in which both players saved match points en route to the final.
   Halep survived three in her 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 victory over American Lauren Davis in the third round and two against 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the semifinals. Wozniacki escaped two match points in her 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Jana Fett of Croatia in the second round.
   It also was the first time in the Open era that a player reached a Grand Slam final after saving one or more match points in multiple matches. Furthermore, Halep suffered a sprained ankle in the first round against 17-year-old Aussie Destanee Aiava.
   Serena Williams, who won her seventh Australian Open title in 2017, missed this year's tournament after delivering her first child in September.
   Both Wozniacki and Halep were 0-1 in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Wozniacki lost as the top seed to Varvara Lepchenko, a U.S. citizen from Uzbekistan, in 2015 after receiving a first-round bye. Halep fell to Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the first round in 2011.
   Bank of the West and Stanford recently ended their association with the tournament after 26 and 21 years, respectively. The event reportedly will move to a new complex at nearby San Jose State or perhaps out of the region.

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