Australian Open 2018: Simona Halep beats Angelique Kerber to make final
|2018 Australian Open|
|Dates: 15-28 January Venue: Melbourne Park|
|Coverage: Watch highlights on BBC Two, the BBC Sport website and app. Live commentary on the best matches on BBC Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra and online.|
World number one Simona Halep saw off 2016 champion Angelique Kerber in a thrilling contest to reach her first Australian Open final.
The Romanian, twice a French Open runner-up, saved two match points on her way to a 6-3 4-6 9-7 victory.
In Saturday's final Halep will face Caroline Wozniacki, a straight-set winner over Elise Mertens, with both women looking for a first major title.
The world number one ranking will also be up for grabs for the champion.
Halep led by a set and a break but failed to convert two match points at 5-4 in the decider, and two games later found herself facing two match points.
However, the 26-year-old hammered a forehand into the corner on her way to saving the game, and clinched victory at the fourth attempt when Kerber's defence finally cracked.
"It was very tough. I'm shaking, I'm emotional," said Halep.
"I knew it was going to be tough. She's a tough opponent who is moving well and hitting from everywhere. I want to thank everyone for supporting me and helping me."
Both Halep and Wozniacki have made it through to the final having saved match points along the way - Halep also saved three in the third round against Lauren Davis, while Wozniacki saved two in the second round against Jana Fett.
I was a rollercoaster - Halep
When Halep led 5-0 after 13 minutes it looked like the semi-final might be a rout, and when she served for a 4-1 lead in the second set it appeared on course to be routine - in the end it was a classic.
Both women arrived in the semi-final on 10-match unbeaten runs in 2018, and it eventually turned out to be the contest expected, but things looked very different for the first hour.
Halep was dialled in from the start, firing blistering back-to-back winners as she broke serve for the third time in under quarter of an hour to lead 5-0.
However, two Halep double faults opened the door and Kerber found her range on her favourite forehand down the line.
The German looked capable of challenging for the set when she broke twice to trail 5-3, but Halep managed to put the pressure back on, converting her second set point when the German netted.
Halep had her chances to complete a swift win, serving with a point for a 4-1 lead in the second set, and failing to punish a second serve on break point at 4-3.
The disappointment lingered and Kerber took advantage, reeling off three games to clinch the set and break at the start of the second thanks to an extraordinary rally of lobs and volleys.
A poor Kerber service game saw Halep level at 1-1 with a backhand winner, and the set became a gripping tussle with chances on either side.
Halep seemed to have made the decisive move when she broke serve for 5-3, but Kerber hit straight back by levelling with an incredible backhand winner off her knees.
The German then saw off two match points to level at 5-5, leaving Halep swiping her racquet in frustration at the opposite baseline.
Kerber would then get two chances to seal it on serve, but Halep stepped up the intensity on her returns and brought it back to 6-6.
Two brilliant defenders capable of absorbing and redirecting their opponent's best shots made for thrilling viewing, and the tightest of matches finally went Halep's way when Kerber could not make a backhand on match point number four.
"I tried to be very calm but I was a rollercoaster today - up and down," said Halep.
"I didn't give up and that's what matters. If you don't give up you can win. I'm really proud of myself actually."
Kerber said: "Of course I had the two match points, but she played good, so I couldn't do anything. It was just a battle at the end. It's just one or two points which decides the match."
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