Melbourne - Caroline
Wozniacki is one match away from ending her Grand Slam title drought
after overcoming a late wobble to beat unseeded Elise Mertens and reach
the Australian Open final Thursday.
The Danish world number two won 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) in 1 hour and 37 minutes after
almost allowing the world number 37 a way back when serving for the
match at 5-4, and seemingly in complete control.
Two double faults enabled Mertens, in her first semi-final at this level on her Australian Open debut, to level at 5-5.
Serving to take it to a tiebreak at 5-6 Wozniacki then needed to save
three sets points before sealing the match in the tiebreak.
"It means so much to me." she said after reaching her maiden
Australian Open final and her first Grand Slam decider since 2014, where
she will play either top seed Simona Halep or the 2016 Melbourne Park
champion Angelique Kerber on Saturday.
"I got really tight at 5-4. I thought 'calm down it's all good'. It wasn't good anymore. Served a couple of double faults.
"Normally I am really calm so once I started feeling really nervous, it felt like my legs were shaking a bit.
"I just took a few deep breaths and once she had set point, I said: 'Well, I guess it is a third set. Just need to go forward'."
Wozniacki has never quite lived up to the hype in the majors - this
will be just her third Grand Slam final appearance, nine years after her
first at the US Open in 2009.
The 27-year-old rose to the top of the world rankings in 2010 but has
only made the title match at a Grand Slam once since then, also at
Flushing Meadows in 2014.
Mertens, in only her fifth Grand Slam appearance and Australian Open
debut, signalled her intent to attack from the start, standing inside
the baseline to receive Wozniacki's second serve.
It was a high-risk
strategy and with Wozniacki repelling all the Belgian's aggressive
overtures, the errors began to flow at regular intervals from Mertens'
Serving at 1-3, 15-40, a netted forehand, her fifth unforced error on
that wing, gave the Dane, back in a semi-final at Melbourne for the
first time since 2011, the first break.
Mertens, seeking to become the first Belgian since Kim Clijsters here
in 2011 to reach a Slam final, kept up the attack and fashioned a break
point in the next game but Wozniacki stood up to the challenge and held
Serving at 2-5, Mertens saved a set point when Wozniacki went long
with a forehand. The Dane was unperturbed by the minor setback and held
to love to seal a comfortable first set 6-3 after 38 minutes.
There was little between the pair in terms of winners in the first stanza, Wozniacki edging the count 13 to 12.
But the unforced error count was telling - the Dane committing just six while Mertens threw away 14 points.
The second set went with serve until the Dane's late wobble, before she finally made it through.