The No.2 player in the world Caroline Wozniacki owns an impressive 4-2 head-to-head record against world No.1 Simona Halep - including three straight victories dating back to 2015.
Wozniacki’s strategy revolves around putting a ton of balls in play, eventually making Halep go away mentally and emotionally by the end of the match. Look at the last three score lines, with a focus on the game score of the final set.
2017 WTA Finals - Wozniacki def. Halep 6-0 6-2
2017 Eastbourne - Wozniacki def. Halep 5-7 6-4 6-1
2015 Stuttgart - Wozniacki def. Halep 7-5 5-7 6-2
When push came to shove to finish these matches, Wozniacki owned Halep 6-2, 6-1 and 6-2. Wozniacki made Halep self-destruct. Why beat someone when you get them to beat themselves?
But this is 2018, and Halep is not going anywhere at all. Consider these two gutsy wins in Melbourne.
Third round - Halep def. Lauren Davis 4-6 6-4 15-13. Saved THREE match points.
Semi - Halep def. Angelique Kerber 6-3 4-6 9-7.- Saved TWO match points.
Halep is absolutely, positively not tapping out anymore. Mental toughness under the bright Melbourne lights is now an asset for the Romanian.
Against Davis, Halep faced three match points serving at 10-11, 0-40. She won five straight points to hold.
Against Kerber, the situation was even more dire, as Kerber held two match points serving at 6-5, 40-15 in the third set. Halep won the next four points. When she finally won one of the greatest matches ever played at the Australian Open, it was not relief on her face. It was a smile. A big, broad, fun-loving smile.
She’s not running from the challenge anymore. She is embracing it.
Halep is conquering her inner demons that have stopped her like road blocks in the past. Less negative. Less likely to go away. Saving four match points will do that to you.
Wozniacki has equally had a mentally strong run to the final. In her second round on Rod Laver Arena, she also saved two match points against Jana Fett. Fett was serving at 5-1, 40-15 in the third set, but Wozniacki found a way with resolve and consistency.
Saving match points can be very empowering for a player. Bent, but not broken. It’s a fascinating dynamic in this women’s final that both players have saved match points on their journey Down Under.
This final will be decided from the baseline. Wozniacki has won 54 per cent (291/535) of her baseline points through six matches, while Halep is at 52 per cent (368/703). Basically the same.
The ratio of forehand and backhand winners, however, is quite different,
Halep has committed 141 forehand errors, and 135 backhand errors. Wozniacki has just 98 forehand errors and 69 backhand errors. The Wozniacki backhand is the star performer from the back of the court coming into the final when you compare the ratio of winners to errors.
Expect Halep to rally sparingly to Wozniacki’s backhand. The goal will be to drag Wozniacki wide to the backhand to then attack her running forehand on the next shot.
Wozniacki will see an advantage going backhand to backhand with Halep, and then look to take her own backhand down the line when Halep’s ball drops short.
This is a fascinating final between the top-two ranked players in the world. Both have saved match points, and both have never won a Grand Slam title.
PREDICTION: Halep in three sets