2018 Australian Open Final Bumper Preview: Simona Halep vs Caroline Wozniacki

A new Grand Slam champion will be crowned in this year’s Australian Open tournament. Will it be World No.1 Simona Halep, or two-time former Grand Slam finalist Caroline Wozniacki? Who will win this high-stakes battle? Read on for the bumper preview…

Australian Open Final

[1] Simona Halep (No.1) vs [2] Caroline Wozniacki (No.2)

Halep’s route to this stage

R1: d. Destanee Aiava, 7-6(5) 6-1

R2: d. Eugenie Bouchard, 6-2 6-2

R3: d. Lauren Davis, 4-6 6-4 15-13

R4: d. Naomi Osaka, 6-3 6-2

QF: d. [6] Karolina Pliskova, 6-3 6-2

SF: d. [21] Angelique Kerber, 6-3 4-6 9-7

Simona Halep has had a stunning two weeks in Melbourne Park, saving five match points in two different matches and having spent close to 12 hours on court enroute to the final. Halep twisted her ankle in the first round against Destanee Aiava, but has valiantly fought on, continually digging herself out of deep holes so far. Halep fought off three match points against a plucky and cramping Lauren Davis, and saved another two match points against Angelique Kerber in a thrilling third set roller coaster which saw both players run around the court like cheetahs, chasing down every ball on the court. The match even got a 15-minute highlight video from the Australian Open YouTube page!

Halep’s mental fortitude has been lacking in her all-rounded game in the last few years or so, but she has shown in this tournament that she has worked on it a ton. I believe if she was in the same position in the third round last year, she would not have been able to work her way out of that match. Another item that I have been particularly impressed with Halep is her level of aggressiveness. Simona’s game is on the passive side but she has played more aggressively in the last three matches, going for her shots and hitting with much conviction. Down two match points against Kerber, she managed to muster up courage to construct four aggressive points to get herself out of the situation. She hit 50 winners to win the match eventually, in which she said in her press conference it was probably the most she had hit in a match.

Wozniacki’s route to this stage

R1: d. Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-2 6-3

R2: d. Jana Fett, 3-6 6-2 7-5

R3: d. [30] Kiki Bertens, 6-4 6-3

R4: d. [19] Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-3 6-0

QF: d. Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-0 6-7(3) 6-2

SF: d. Elise Mertens, 6-3 7-6(2)

Halep isn’t the only one to save match points enroute to the final as another plucky fighter with the name of Caroline Wozniacki survived courageous efforts from her opponents to reach this stage of the Australian Open for the first time ever. Many would describe Wozniacki’s draw as a slightly easier route than Halep, but she has also faced a couple of courageous competitors in Jana Fett, Carla Suarez Navarro and Elise Mertens. Fett was leading 5-1, 40-15 in the third set before Wozniacki mounted a stunning comeback to win the last six games of the match. Suarez Navarro also managed to take a set off Wozniacki, but was unable to sustain her second set level which resulted in a Wozniacki victory.

Wozniacki managed to notch a straight sets win over Mertens in the semis, but it was not as easy as the scoreline seemed. Mertens was probably a little overawed in the first set, but managed to produce a decent performance in the second. Wozniacki though was as solid as she usually is but tightened up while serving for the match, losing that game with a double fault. She managed to rebound nicely though, fending off two set points and playing a convincing tiebreak to send herself into the finals. Wozniacki has been super solid as expected throughout these two weeks but she will have to do a little more than solid if she is to claim a maiden Grand Slam title.

What are these two playing for: This is definitely a high stakes final with both of them aiming for their first Grand Slam titles. Both of these players have been the most consistent players within the last three years or so and thoroughly deserves to add a Slam into their collection. The winner of this match will also claim the No.1 ranking, with the runner-up leaving Melbourne as No.2 in the world and with an 0-3 record in Slam finals.

Stats: Halep has spent 11 and a half hours on court in six matches, whilst Wozniacki has spent about 10 hours on the court.

Halep’s average ranking of her six opponents averages to about 80, while Wozniacki’s average opponents’ ranking is about 48. Don’t be fooled by the numbers though, as Halep’s first and second round opponents’ ranking already adds up to about 300.

Both have went 0-2 in previous Grand Slam finals, with Halep losing her two French Open finals to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and Jelena Ostapenko in 2017, and Wozniacki lost her two US Open finals to Kim Clijsters in 2009 and Serena Williams in 2014.

Thoughts: I’ve been thinking about the outcome for so long but I haven’t managed to decide so here I am consolidating my thoughts…

Why Wozniacki will win

  • She has spent 1.5 hours less on the court than Halep. With both players’ game centered on defense, this could be the factor.
  • She’s healthy. The Dane is one of the fittest players on the tour, whilst Halep has mentioned she is still struggling with the ankle.
  • Her first serve speed has been faster than Halep. Wozniacki’s first serve speed averaged at 164 km/h against Mertens, while Halep’s first serve was averaging at 156 km/h against Kerber. The serve will be crucial for both players to gain free points as both players never give up on any point on the court.

Why Halep will win

  • Mentality. We have seen a couple of jitters from Wozniacki, notably whilst serving for the match against Mertens, she threw in a couple of errors. Wozniacki also mentioned that the thought of her failing to serve out the match against Li Na in AO 2011 was also on her mind. With the ankle injury, Halep has mentioned a couple of times that she has no expectations and is not feeling any pressure. She is showing that what she said wasn’t only paper talk with how aggressive she was to save match points against Kerber.
  • Aggressive play. While Wozniacki has been largely playing defense throughout this tournament, Halep has showed the aggressive play that she possesses. She has been inspired this second week, averaging around 30~ winners in her last three matches against Osaka, Pliskova and Kerber.
  • While both players are mainly counter-punchers, Halep has the more power, especially on the forehand side. Wozniacki’s forehand wing has been the part that has let her down this tournament.

Soooo I think I’ve convinced myself to pick Simona. So long the energy level is high on her part and she can keep the nerves out of the way, a Grand Slam title seems to be the next tournament victory on Halep’s resume.

Prediction: Simona Halep d. Caroline Wozniacki in three sets

Australian Open predictions are here, you can find them at the menu at the top of the blog as well. Thanks for reading! 🙂

 

 

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