Halep outlasts Kerber to reach Australian Open final
Top seed Simona Halep saved two match points on Thursday to win a pulsating semi-final at the Australian Open against Angelique Kerber. The battle ended 6-3 4-6 9-7 to the Romanian after two hours and 20 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
Halep served for the match at 5-3 in the decider but the German broke back only then to find herself two match points down as she sought parity.
Kerber clawed her way back to level at 5-5 and then broke Halep to lead 6-5. The 2016 champion had two match points but Halep recovered.
"I said if she can come back I could do it. I had confidence in myself," said Halep.
From 6-6, there was a measure of stability until Kerber's resolve was finally extinguished when she was serving to make it 8-8. "It was definitely very tough," added Halep. "She was hitting winners from everywhere. I'm glad I could resist."
That the match turned into an epic was a testament to 30-year-old Kerber's resolve. After winning the Australian Open and the US Open as well as becoming the world number one in 2016, Kerber suffered a spectacular slump and slithered down the rankings into the top 20.
Signs of resurgence came with her triumph at the WTA tournament in Sydney just before the 2018 Australian Open and she returned from a break down in the second set to take the match into a decider.
"I tried to be calm today," said Halep. "It was a rollercoaster but if you don't give up you can win. I did it well. I am proud of myself."
Kerber's appearance in the last four will take her back into the top 10 while Halep will remain number one if she overcomes Caroline Wozniacki in Saturday's final on Rod Laver Arena. The 27-year-old Dane beat the unseeded Belgian Elise Mertens 6-3 7-6 on Thursday to book her place in the showdown.
However more will be at stake than top spot on the women's tour. Both Halep and Wozniacki will be seeking their first Grand Slam crown. Halep has twice lost in the final at the French Open while Wozniacki has suffered two defeats in the final at the US Open.
"I respect her a lot and I know it's going to be similar to the match against Angelique," Halep said. "I will have to run. I want to give my best to believe that I have the chance to win and not to think about the title. If it's going to come, it's going to come."
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