Home » HEADLINES AND FEATURES, Lead, Randy Walker, Top Stories » “The Golden Retriever” Caroline Wozniacki Uses Defensive Skills In Key Moments To Win Breakthrough Aussie Open Crown




By Randy Walker

@TennisPublisher

 

The last two points of the 2018 Australian Open women’s singles final were perfectly emblematic of why legendary tennis journalist and personality Bud Collins labeled Caroline Wozniacki with the nickname “The Golden Retriever.”

Collins, the most colorful media personality the sport has ever seen, was known for his fun and appropriate tennis player nicknames such as “Fraulein Forehand” for Steffi Graf, “the Barcelona Bumble Bee” for Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and “The Leaning Tower of Pasadena” for Stan Smith. Collins had labeled Wozniacki as “The Golden Retriever” for the blond-haired Dane’s incredible ability to move from side to side along the baseline, not missing many shots and recovering wide balls like she was beautiful golden canine incessantly running after balls thrown on a beach or backyard.

While “The Golden Retriever” moniker will stay with Wozniacki for eternity, her other label as the greatest tennis player to never win a major singles title will not.

Her dramatic 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4 win over Simona Halep was punctuated by two amazing baseline rallies on the final two points of the match, where the 27-year-old from Denmark incredibly kept the rallies alive with scampering saves from the baseline, especially the second-to-last point of the match that set up her first and only match point. To set up match point, Wozniacki scurried and scuttled across the baseline, throwing back Halep’s missiles however she could, including an amazing save from off the court where she delivered an amazingly angled backhand cross-court that set up a forehand winner. On match point, Wozniacki saved two wide shots with slice, squash-like forehands, before rushing to the other side of the court the hit a defensive top-spin backhand that gave Halep one more chance to make an error, which she did in the next shot when she netted a cross-court backhand to give Wozniacki the title.

The 2018 Australian Open was Wozniacki’s 43rd career major tournament and she entered the event having won 27 career WTA singles titles and had been ranked No. 1 in the world for 67 total weeks. Only eight women in the history of the sport had been ranked No. 1 longer than Wozniacki. However, Wozniacki was without a major singles title win until her win over Halep. She lost in the final of the 2009 and 2014 US Opens, both in straight-sets as the underdog to Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams, respectively. She also painfully lost an Australian Open semifinal in 2011 as the No. 1 seed and the favorite to Li Na, despite holding match point, and a U.S. Open semifinal as the No. 1 seed in 2010 against the No. 7 seeded Vera Zvonareva.

With the loss, Halep will likely take over the moniker as the greatest player in women’s tennis history without a major title. However, the Romanian dynamo showed amazing resilience and fight throughout the fortnight, overcoming a bad ankle twist in her opening round match and saving match points in two matches en route to the final. Halep saved three match points in her 15-13 in the third set win over American Lauren Davis in the third round and four match points in her 9-7 in the third set win over Angelique Kerber in the semifinals. Halep would have been the first player to ever save match points in two matches in win a major title. Halep had previously lost the 2014 and 2017 French Open finals, once as an underdog to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and as the favorite to Jelena Ostapenko last year. In addition to achieving the No. 1 ranking for 16 weeks and two major final appearances, Halep has 16 WTA titles to her credit.

Wozniacki herself was down 5-1 in the final set and saved two match points in her second-round, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Croatia’s Jana Fett. She becomes the ninth woman to win the Australian singles title after being down match point, the last two being Li Na in 2014 and Kerber in 2016.

The victory in Melbourne victory returns Wozniacki to the No. 1 ranking, where she replaces Halep. Wozniacki last ranked No. 1 in 2012, a span of six years which is the biggest hiatus between ranking No. 1 in the history of tennis. In 2014, just months after losing to Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final, Wozniacki enhanced her reputation for her fitness and running by completing the New York City Marathon in a very impressive 3 hours, 26 minutes – 36 minutes longer than her Australian Open final victory in 2 hours, 50 minutes. The win makes Wozniacki the first player from Denmark to win a major singles title. And as Bud Collins would have written “There is nothing rotten in Denmark” on this day.

 

Randy Walker is the author of three published books, On This Day In Tennis History, The Days of Roger Federer and On This Day In Golf History.

Caroline Wozniacki Running Forehand

Caroline Wozniacki Running Forehand



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Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the books ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY and THE DAYS OF ROGER FEDERER

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