Australian Open 2018 Women's Final: Schedule, Prediction and Prize Money

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2018

Simona Halep pulled out an epic win in the semifinal round to earn a spot in the Australian Open title match.
Simona Halep pulled out an epic win in the semifinal round to earn a spot in the Australian Open title match.Vincent Thian/Associated Press

Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep are prepared for an epic championship match in the Australian Open women's final on Saturday.

In addition to fighting for the first Grand Slam title of the year, the pair will be challenging for the world No. 1 spot. Halep has had a 16-week run atop the rankings, and she will hold on to her position with a win in Melbourne. However, if Wozniacki can take the title, she will leapfrog the Romanian.

Neither competitor has won a Grand Slam title, although both have been in two finals before now. 

The championship match will be played at 3:30 a.m. ET and will be televised by ESPN. The winner will take home $3.23 million (U.S.), while the loser will earn $1.61 million.

Halep played an epic match against Angelique Kerber in the semifinals, and she registered a 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 victory. Wozniacki defeated Elise Mertens 6-3, 7-6 (7-2).

"Well, definitely was very tough. I'm shaking now, I'm really emotional," Halep said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "I'm really glad that I could resist. I had two match balls, and I lost them. Today I was like a roller-coaster, [but] I had confidence in myself."

It took two hours and 20 minutes for the Romanian to secure the victory.

Halep injured her ankle during her first-round match, and there was a chance she could have opted out of the competition after that problem. However, she decided to stay in the tournament. 

Wozniacki appeared to be in charge against Mertens after taking the first set and building a 5-4 lead in the second set while serving for the match. However, the Belgian battled back and took a 6-5 lead before the world No. 2 leveled the set and forced a tiebreaker.

That's when the Dane decided to get aggressive. 

"I got really tight," Wozniacki said per the Associated Press (h/t Sports Illustrated). "Once she had set points, I thought, 'OK, now you just have to go for it ... she's nervous now, too.'

"I managed to just gather myself, and thankfully closed it out in the end."

       

Prediction

The Wozniacki-Halep final has the potential to be a thriller. Both women are looking for their first Grand Slam title, but only one will be successful Down Under.

Wozniacki may be the more desperate of the two finalists, but Halep appears to have more weapons and is more athletic.

Look for another three-set match, and Halep should have just a bit more left in the tank. The world No. 1 earns her first Grand Slam title, and the belief here is it won't be her last.

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