The players who saved match points before winning the AO

  • Ravi Ubha

Naomi Osaka saved a pair of match points to beat Garbine Muguruza in a fourth-round thriller at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday, and the Japanese megastar isn’t the only player still around at Australian Open 2021 after fending off match points. 

MORE: Osaka edges brave Muguruza in titanic contest

Donna Vekic and Fabio Fognini have done it, too. 

Have players saved match points before the final and gone on to win the Australian Open, you ask? 

Yes, is the answer. Here’s a look at five players who did it this century.  

Caroline Wozniacki (2018)

F_Wozniacki v Fett_AO2028_02

Wozniacki saved two match points against Jana Fett in the second round three years ago. On one of them, Fett’s first serve was close to being an ace. It just missed the line and the Croatian resorted to a second serve. 

Those match points came when Wozniacki trailed 5-1 in the third set. And following that game, a reeling Fett claimed just six more points. 

“At 5-1, 40-15, I felt like I was one foot out of the tournament,” said the Dane. 

Wozniacki edged Simona Halep in a marathon final — after the Romanian saved match points in two different matches — to earn a long awaited maiden Grand Slam crown. 

Angelique Kerber (2016)

F_Kerber v Doi_AO2016_02

Halep overcame two match points against Kerber in the 2018 semifinals but two years earlier, the German’s escape came in the first round against Japan’s Misaki Doi. 

Down a set and 6-5 in a second-set tiebreak, Kerber won three consecutive points to force a decider and didn’t look back. 

She would not lose another set until the final, when the left-hander downed Serena Williams in three sets to — like Wozniacki — bag a first Grand Slam title. 

“I think this point where I was match point down, that was the important point for my career,” said Kerber, who needs a French Open triumph to complete her Grand Slam collection. 

Li Na (2014)

F_Li Na v Safarina_AO2014_01

The bubbly Li narrowly missed winning the title in 2013, outdone by Victoria Azarenka in three sets in the final.

The next year in the third round, Li drew the big-hitting Lucie Safarova. The Czech left-hander took the first set and manufactured a match point on the Li serve at 6-5 in the second. 

Safarova controlled the point but with Li stranded, sent her backhand down the line marginally long. 

“I think the five centimetres saved my tournament,” said Li. “If she had hit it in ... the whole team (would have been) on the way to the airport.”

Safarova created match point magic of her own at the Australian Open in 2017, saving nine against Yanina Wickmayer to advance to the second round. 

Marat Safin (2005) 

F_Safin v Federer AO2005_02

Safin ended Roger Federer’s 26-match winning streak in the semifinals in what had to be one of the most memorable contests in recent Australian Open history. 

The match point he saved was something special. Safin raced up to reach an acrobatic Federer volley at 5-6 in the fourth-set tiebreak, then struck a superb lob. 

Federer raced back but his tweener found the net. 

The Swiss — who received treatment on his arm during the titanic duel — succumbed on a seventh match point as Safin progressed 5-7 6-4 5-7 7-6(6) 9-7 in four-and-a-half hours. 

“It's always going to hurt, no matter how great the match was," Federer said. "But at least you can leave the place feeling good about yourself, because I gave it all I had."

Safin went on to beat home favorite Lleyton Hewitt in the finale.   

Serena Williams (2003 & 2005)

F_S Williams v Clisters_AO2005_01

Back in 2003, Serena Williams sought her first Australian Open crown. 

She got it — and a fourth straight Grand Slam title — after saving two match points against Kim Clijsters and rallying from 5-1 down in the third set of their semifinal. 

Foot blisters were also an issue that day for Williams, who met older sister Venus in the final. 

Two years later in the semifinals, she faced a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova, her conqueror in the previous Wimbledon final. 

Sharapova couldn’t serve out the encounter in the second set and also in the third, when three match points vanished at 5-4.

"She is one of the best competitors out there,” said Sharapova. 

Williams scraped by 2-6 7-5 8-6, and lifted the second of her seven Australian Open singles trophies thanks to defeating Lindsay Davenport. 

Williams thus joined Safin in the 2005 winners’ circle after saving match points. 

Sixteen years later, incredibly, Williams is hoping for another spot on finals weekend in 2021.