Caroline Wozniacki transfixed us in a final for the ages
Despite Serena Williams's absence, the women's draw provided more excitement than the men's
With close friend Caroline Wozniacki competing for her maiden grand slam, seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams went to bed, too nervous to watch. This is not the first time Williams has publicly admitted to turning the channel on a tournament she has made her own, but this time the inference could not have been more different. The irony is that in this case Williams missed a classic; an epic all the more impressive given her sizeable absence.
After all, publicity for the 2018 women's draw began with Craig Tiley doing his best to hype Williams possible return, at one point promising there was no question she would be back, despite the fact that Williams was reportedly bedridden for six weeks following an emergency C section. In their enthusiasm to hype Williams's unlikely return, one wondered if Tennis Australia prescribed to the notion that no Williams was equivalent of no Australian Open at least from a women's perspective.
By Saturday night, any such questions were well and truly redundant. While Serena couldn't watch, the rest of us were transfixed. Those who bought tickets or tuned in were treated to a stunning match of tennis full of brilliant rallies and breathtaking winners, neither combatant giving an inch. When it was finally over, Wozniacki visibly shook with all the tension, drama and emotion of a final for the ages. It was a fitting conclusion to a tournament in which the women's draw arguably provided more excitement than the men's perhaps with the exception of the emergence of cult hero Hyeon Chung.
Wozniacki's win is a remarkable tale in itself. In officially reclaiming the No1 ranking on 29 January, she will do so six years to the day since she last held the coveted position the longest time a WTA player has taken to do so since computer records were introduced in 1975. The woman she takes the record from is none other than Williams herself, demonstrating just how long Wozniacki has managed to stay thereabouts at the top of the game, a feat all the more impressive given her ranking dropped as low as No74 in August 2016. Since then she has shown phenomenal determination to turn her fortunes around, winning more matches than any other player since 2017 (at 71 wins).
Coming into the Australian Open, Wozniacki was one of no fewer than six players competing for the No1 ranking, with all of Gabrine Muguruza, Elina Svitlona, Karolina Pliskova and Jelena Ostapenko also in the running to take the title from the now dethroned Simona Halep. Thus while an injury-free Nadal and timeless Roger Federer may arguably have the men's draw stitched up (as they did in 2017), this is a sign of how open the women's has become in Williams absence.....
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