Australian Open 2018 Women's Final: Simona Halep vs. Caroline Wozniacki Preview

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2018

(FILES) This combination of file photographs created on January 25, 2018, shows (L) Romania's Simona Halep as she hits a return against Germany's Angelique Kerber during their women's singles semi-finals match on day 11 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2018 and (R) shows Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki as she hits a return against Belgium's Elise Mertens during their women's singles semi-finals match on day 11 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2018.



Simona Halep survived a three-set thriller against Angelique Kerber to set up a winner-takes-all Australian Open final against Caroline Wozniacki, on January 27, 2018, where the number one ranking will be on the line. / AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE --        (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
PETER PARKS/Getty Images

The first matchup between No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki at a Grand Slam is loaded with meaning for both parties. 

Halep and Wozniacki, both in their third major tournament final, are in search of their first-career Grand Slam title, and the winner of Saturday's Australian Open women's singles final will be the No. 1 ranked player in the WTA world rankings. 

Wozniacki carries a 4-2 all-time record against Halep into Saturday's showdown of top players at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, with the latest victory coming in straight sets at the 2017 WTA Championships. 

     

Halep Dealing with Sprained Ankle

The road to the final hasn't been an easy one for Halep, who suffered a sprained ankle in her first-round match against Destanee Aiava. 

Although the ankle may bother her a bit, Halep isn't letting the pain get to her, as she's determined to capture her first Grand Slam crown. 

Halep talked about how much determination she has to win the tournament and noted that she'll rest her ankle next week, per the Australian Open's official Twitter account

The Romanian has been to two major finals in the past, both of which came at the French Open. Her matches in 2014 against Maria Sharapova and in 2017 versus Jelena Ostapenko were decided in three sets. 

Halep won the second set in a tiebreak in her championship match against Sharapova, and she took the first set a year ago at Roland Garros before Ostapenko took control of the match. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26:  Simona Halep of Romania during her practice session on day 12 of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)
Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

You could argue Halep comes into the final as the more battle tested of the pair from the two weeks of play in Melbourne. 

Halep recovered from a set down in the third round against American Lauren Davis to win the match in a 15-13 third set. She also rallied from losing the second set to Angelique Kerber in the semifinals to take the deciding third set 9-7. 

The top-ranked woman in the world is also undefeated in 2018, as she took first place at a tournament in Shenzhen, China, before heading to Melbourne. 

One would think everything is lining up for Halep to celebrate on Saturday night with her first major championship, but her opponent can make the same argument after her path to the title match. 

       

Wozniacki Back in Grand Slam Final for 1st Time Since 2014

Wozniacki has been one of the best players in the world for quite some time, but her appearances in Grand Slam finals have been few and far between. 

After advancing to the 2009 U.S. Open final, Wozniacki needed five years to get back to another championship match at the 2014 U.S. Open.

Four years after her second major tournament final defeat, Wozniacki is playing for another trophy following a successful end to the 2017 season in which she won the WTA Championships. 

"I always believed in myself," Wozniacki said, per Christopher Clarey of the New York Times. "I had a tough period where I had a few injuries. That was kind of hard and tough mentally. But once I got past that, I knew that if I can stay healthy and I work hard, my game is good enough for it. I was just giving myself time. I think if you don’t feel like you can go all the way in tournaments, then to me there’s no sense in playing."

Wozniacki almost experienced her sixth consecutive exit before the quarterfinals in Melbourne in the second round, as she lost the first set to Croatia's Jana Fett, but she rebounded for a three-set victory. 

Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki reacts after a point against Belgium's Elise Mertens during their women's singles semi-finals match on day 11 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN / -- IMAGE RESTR
SAEED KHAN/Getty Images

The No. 2 seed has won four of her matches in two sets, with the other victory in three sets coming in the quarterfinals over Carla Suarez Navarro. 

Wozniacki is 10-1 in the young season, with her only loss coming in the final of the Auckland Open to Julia Georges. 

A win on Saturday will move Wozniacki over Halep in the world rankings, a storyline that the Danish player said is "cool" on top of all the other drama, per the tournament's official Twitter account

If she wins on Saturday, Wozniacki will become the first player from Denmark to win a Grand Slam singles title. Frederik Nielsen is the only current Danish Grand Slam winner, as he won the 2012 Wimbledon men's doubles championship. 

        

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from WTATennis.com.

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