Caroline Wozniacki claimed her maiden Grand Slam title after beating Simona Halep 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4 to win the 2018 Australian Open in Melbourne on Saturday. Wozniacki also became the first Danish player to win a Grand Slam and returned to No. 1 in the WTA rankings ahead of Halep.
Wozniacki described the feeling of finally securing a Grand Slam, per AustralianOpen:
"I've dreamed of this moment for so many years. Today is a dream come true. I'm shaking right now. I'm going to cry." -@CaroWozniacki 👏😭 #AusOpen https://t.co/jOwGbSaEzt2018-1-27 11:42:52
ESPN's Brad Gilbert noted how ending a long wait for a major will forever change the perception of Wozniacki:
Brad Gilbert @bgtennisnation
The great 👍 Dane Woza never has to here the best women’s player ever not to win a grand slam2018-1-27 11:26:30
Both players had to fight through the pain barrier as they dealt with leg injuries amid intense heat. In the process, they delivered a match for the ages—one so good CNN's Ravi Ubha suggested joint honours were due:
Ravi Ubha @raviubha
Shall we institute a new rule? Give them each the title. :)2018-1-27 10:22:03
Ultimately, Wozniacki just did enough to shade things, earning praise for her fighting spirit from former British No.1 and current Eurosport presenter Annabel Croft:
Annabel Croft @Annabel_Croft
Well done @CaroWozniacki !! Huge congratulations on winning 1 st slam at #aussieopen ! Never stopped persevering 🏆🇦🇺🎾2018-1-27 11:27:45
Meanwhile, Johanna Konta saluted both players for their contribution to the profile of the sport:
Johanna Konta @JoKonta91
I’m so incredibly proud to be a part of women’s tennis in this day and age. What a tournament for both @CaroWozniacki and @Simona_Halep 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 @WTA @AustralianOpen2018-1-27 11:27:33
Being part of a dramatic final will be little consolation for Halep, who lost her top ranking after struggling to deal with the heat in Australia.
Even so, the 26-year-old vowed to bounce back from missing her own chance to win a first major:
"For sure I will fight, I have many years to go so hopefully I will face another challenge like this today." A warrior today, a warrior all tournament. Well played, Simona. #AusOpen https://t.co/jlS2t3hsXA2018-1-27 11:43:07
Halep had battled from 5-2 down to push the opening set into a tiebreak. However, Wozniacki made the telling shots to win the set and assume initial control of the final.
Mike Dickson of the Daily Mail applauded Wozniacki's bravery in securing a first set win in a Grand Slam final:
Mike Dickson @Mike_Dickson_DM
A lot of courage from Wozniacki to keep hitting down the line. Takes the tiebreak 7-2. Steamy hot. These two spent more time on court reaching the final than Federer did.2018-1-27 09:26:05
Halep's courage came to the fore early in the second set when she saved a break point to open a 2-1 lead. The Romanian was soon 3-2 ahead before she asked the physio to take her blood pressure.
The visit from the physio prompted Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of Serena Williams, to question Halep's conditioning:
I feel that #Simonahalep is a bit less fresh physically than #carolinewozniacki . The physical part will play a big role in that match.2018-1-27 09:48:21
However, Halep proved her doubters wrong by securing a critical break point to move 5-3 in front, despite obvious pain in her left thigh. Halep continued to defy her body and battled back from 15-40 down to save a break point and even the final at a set apiece.
Halep's stunning comeback under pressure and at less than 100 percent was typical of a player specialising in dramatic finals, according to WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen:
Courtney Nguyen @FortyDeuceTwits
Say this about Halep: She’s certainly value for your Slam final ticket dollar. All three of her finals have gone three.2018-1-27 11:10:40
Heroics weren't in short supply when a clearly hobbled and gassed Halep soon broke serve again to stay in the decider at 3-2. Yet another break point seemingly put the world No. 1 in control at 4-3, before a Wozniacki break and strong service game positioned the Dane a game away from the title.
Wozniacki was overcoming her own injury issues, as she dealt with a knee problem, but the world No. 2 soon made history when Halep hit the net with a backhand.
The end of an epic match led Eurosport UK's Catherine Whitaker to reiterate that men and women tennis stars deserve equal reward:
Catherine Whitaker @CWhitakerSport
I think anyone who doesn't believe in equal prize money should have the guts to go to both Halep and Wozniacki's post final press conference, look them in the eye and explain why they are less valuable men. Dare you all.2018-1-27 10:52:10
Whitaker's words have weight after Halep and Wozniacki produced an instant classic in gruelling conditions.