Angelique Kerber after tight loss to Simona Halep: I know that I'm back

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Angelique Kerber says she gave “everything” in her rollercoaster Australian Open semi-final loss to Simona Halep, and is happy to be back near her best after a lean spell.

The German, who won the tournament in 2016, had a form slump last year that saw her plunge down the rankings from being world number one at the start of 2017.

But a win in the lead-up Sydney International and a run to the last four at the opening Grand Slam of the year has been enough to convince her that she is again a force to be reckoned with.

“I know that I’m back,” she said after pushing world number one Halep to the brink in her 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 defeat, fashioning two match points but unable to convert either.

“I know that I can play again good tennis in front of amazing crowds and play tough matches, winning also matches where I’m down and fighting until the last point.

“For me, the most important thing is that I’m again on court, and I’m fighting.

“I gave my heart there. I really enjoyed every single moment.

“You have to play your best every single day. I think that’s what I did it every single day here when I was here in Australia.”

Kerber is projected to race up the rankings to number nine from her current 16 when they are released after the tournament.

She said she was most satisfied with her fighting qualities in the Halep match.

“I mean, I gave everything. This is what I will tell myself in the next few days,” said Kerber, who celebrated her 30th birthday in Melbourne.

“And looking back what I achieved in the last three weeks, yeah, it was not so bad.

“When I’m looking back at four, five weeks ago, and somebody told me that I will win so many matches in a row, win a title, be in the semis here, and still having the opportunity to win this match, all is well.”

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Simona Halep to face Caroline Wozniacki in Australian Open final after overcoming Angelique Kerber

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Simona Halep is through to the Australian Open final.

Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki will do battle in the Australian Open final on Saturday with a first grand slam title and the world number one 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 number one 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.

Angelique Kerber congratulates Simona Halep on her victory.

Angelique Kerber congratulates Simona Halep on her victory.

It pitted two of the best athletes and counter-punchers on the women’s tour against each other, so long rallies seemed to be a given, yet after 13 minutes the score was 5-0 to Halep.

But Kerber mounted a comeback, winning three games in a row, before Halep broke serve again to take the set. The Romanian has made no secret that her sole focus now is on winning a slam title, but Kerber clung on by her fingernails in the second set, recovering from 1-3 and then saving break points that would have given Halep a 5-3 lead.

She got her reward with three games in a row to take the set as Halep’s belief wavered and then broke to start the third with an extraordinary point that was a taste of things to come.

Halep looked to have made the decisive breakthrough when she opened up a 5-3 lead but Kerber broke back, ending the final titanic point on her knees with her head pressed to the court.

A pinpoint HawkEye challenge gave Halep two match points in the next game but Kerber saved them both and then gave herself the chance to serve for victory at 6-5. She got to 40-15 but now it was Halep’s turn to dig in and hang on.

They were the fourth and fifth match points the Romanian has saved this tournament after she withstood three in another remarkable battle against Lauren Davis in round three.

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 had just 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.”

All seemed to be going smoothly for Wozniacki against surprise package Mertens in the first match until she served for the match at 5-4 in the second set and from 30-0 lost four straight points, double-faulting on the last of them.

Wozniacki then had to save two set points but, seven years after holding match point in the last four here against Li Na and losing, she engineered a different outcome.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Caroline Wozniacki overcomes Elise Mertens to reach Australian Open final

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In the final: Wozniacki.

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 1hr 37min 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.

AGGRESSIVE OVERTURES

Big win for Wozniacki.

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’ racket.

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 for 4-1.

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. 

Provided by AFP Sport

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