Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki will compete for high stakes in Saturday’s Australian Open final, having each needed to save match points to prevent a premature exit at Melbourne Park.
The winner at Rod Laver Arena is not only guaranteed a long-awaited maiden grand slam title but also the world number one ranking in the game of thrones that women’s tennis has become in Serena Williams’s absence.
The final will be the first between two non-slam winners in 38 years, since Hana Mandlikova beat home favourite Wendy Turnbull in 1980.
But in a fortnight where the seeds have been scattered to the wind, Halep and Wozniacki may both feel fortunate to still be in the hunt.
In arguably the clash of the tournament, top seed Halep had to save three match points and battle back from a set down in a marathon thriller against American Lauren Davis in the third round.
Still recovering from an ankle injury, the Romanian needed to save two further match points in another three-set classic against 2016 champion Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals.
Caroline Wozniacki hits a return against Elise Mertens during their women’s singles semi-finals match of the Australian Open tennis tournament on January 25, 2018. (AFP)
Second seed Wozniacki also had to save two match points and claw back from 5-1 down in her early round match against Croatia’s Jana Fett.
Little wonder Denmark’s most accomplished tennis player described herself as feeling like she was playing with “house money” at Melbourne Park.
Both Halep and Wozniacki have been at pains to downplay the significance of Saturday’s decider at Rod Laver Arena.
Halep said it was “just another match”, while Wozniacki spoke as if steeling herself for disappointment.
“It’s another finals, it’s another great two weeks,” the 27-year-old told reporters. “Regardless of what happens now, I’ve done my best.”