Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki will do battle in the Australian Open final on Saturday with a first grand slam title and the world No 1 ranking at stake.
After Wozniacki withstood a major wobble with the finish line in sight to beat Elise Mertens 6-3 7-6 (7/2), Halep defeated title favourite Angelique Kerber 6-3 4-6 9-7, with the third set a battle of lung-busting brilliance.
The final will be a clash between the top two seeds who share more than simply proximity in the rankings. Both have been ranked No 1 without winning a slam, both lost their first two finals and, heading into the second half of their careers, both know they may never get a better chance. Cynics would call it the desperation derby, and whichever player handles the occasion better is very likely to come out the winner.
Halep achieved the bigger result in the semi-finals, beating the form player of 2017, former Melbourne champion Kerber, who went into the clash on a 10-match winning streak.
Halep said: “It definitely was very tough, I’m shaking, I’m very emotional. She’s a very tough opponent. I’m really glad that I could resist and I could win this match. I have just to enjoy.
“I just had confidence in myself. I decided after I twist my ankle (in the first round) that I will fight for every point in this tournament and then I will rest. I didn’t give up, not even a ball. If you don’t give up you can win the match in the end. I did it and I’m really proud of myself.”
Wozniacki claimed a comfortbale first set against Mertens then had to save two set points in the second but, seven years after holding match point in the last four here against Li Na and losing, she engineered a more positive outcome.