It’s the third Grand Slam final for the 26-year-old, rightfully earned after 2 and a half hours long match that kept both fans and press at the edge of their seats. Halep defeated Angelique Kerber 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 and will face WTA #2 Caroline Wozniacki Saturday, January 27. This will be the first Australian Open final since 1980 between two tennis players who have never won a Grand Slam title. Stakes are high, as Wozniacki, who defeated Elise Mertens on the same morning, could overthrow Halep as the #1 WTA.
International press is in awe after the rollercoaster semifinal, which will go down in history as one of the stellar matches of Australian Open. Halep overcame her weaknesses and showed all the qualities of a true champion:
As soon as the Romanian lost her decisive 5-3 advantage, everyone was expecting her to spiral down, not unlike some her previous Grand Slam semifinals. This time, however, this didn’t happen and did not lose her focus. She managed to stay concentrated and turned the game to her advantage in the following hour, managing six aces, a re-break and continuing to fight until the defeated Kerber 9-7. Halep seamlessly discarded her opponent’s 5-point advantage, staying in control of the situation and demonstrating an intimidating body language. This was a new attitude shown by the world leader, who has been known to lose her focus in decisive moments.
If some have described Simona’s #1 WTA position as purely incidental, this time the Romanian player showed the entire world that she is capable of working on her weaknesses and turning them into strengths. Her serve was her main advantage this time, taking Kerber by surprise and winning 67% of the points where she served first. Experts all agree that even if Halep hadn’t won this match, it still would have been one of her first matches to date, because she showed great determination and endurance and become of the most inspirational international tennis players. Simona is already a role model in her country, not only for her results, but also for the way she revived young people’s interest in tennis and restored Romanian tennis to its former glory. Halep’s ascension started at 17, when she had breast reduction surgery to improve her reaction times and be faster on the court. Her coach said this move was a major part of her career and one of the things that helped her performance. The decision to have breast reduction surgery to become a better athlete gained her respect, encouraging many other young tennis players to pursue their dreams in this sport.
More aggressive than ever
One of the widely debated themes regarding Halep’s performance was her ability be more aggressive in her matches and develop that “killer” instinct to get her out of tight situations. She definitely did this time, because she kept her temper and won no less than 50 kick serves. Known for her defensive playing style, Halep surprised the entire world with her transformation and everyone is looking forward to her performance during the final.
At the press conference following the semi-final, Halep talked about the final against Danish player Caroline Wozniacki and her playing style. She expects a similar match and hopes that she can keep a balance between defense, aggression and control. Both players will have reason to be nervous, commenters say. Compared to last year’s Roland Garros final, lost to Jelena Ostapenko, Halep is much more aggressive and sure of herself. At the same time, Wozniacki has had an exceptional year so far, she is in great physical shape and is just as motivated to win her first Grand Slam title, after two lost finals (US Open in 2009, when she lost against Kim Clijsters and again in 2014, against Serena Williams). Besides, she is known for her tough matches, so this will surely be one of the most interesting Australian Open finals to watch.