Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki banished her Australian Open demons to reach the final at the expense of Elise Mertens Thursday, despite a late wobble.The 2011 semi-final at Melbourne Park has haunted Danish second seed Wozniacki, who failed to execute a match point in the second set before losing to eventual champion Li Na.
But Wozniacki – a two-time US Open runner-up – remains on track to win a maiden grand slam following her 6-3 7-6 (7-2) victory over unseeded Belgian Mertens. Wozniacki was powering towards a routine win on Rod Laver Arena until she threatened to capitulate, the Dane surrendering a 5-3 lead in the second set before surviving a tie-break.
The 27-year-old, in contention to claim the number one ranking after rallying from 5-1 down in the final set to avoid elimination against Jana Fett in the second round last week, will face either top seed Simona Halep or 2016 champion Angelique Kerber in Saturday's showpiece.
On her strongest run at a grand slam after upstaging fourth seed Elina Svitolina to reach the semi-finals of a major for the first time, Mertens looked overawed. While she hit 12 winners, the 22-year-old recorded 14 unforced errors, which proved costly in the first set.
Wozniacki, who struggled with her first serves as it dropped to as low as 33 percent, made the crucial breakthrough in the fourth game as she broke to 15 for a 3-1 lead.
Mertens managed to earn a break point in the next game but Wozniacki was up to the task with a nice forehand winner down the line. The Belgian then survived to force Wozniacki to serve out the set, having gone from 40-15 to deuce, while she double-faulted and netted a routine volley into the net.
However, it only delayed the inevitable as the ruthless Wozniacki closed out the set to love – Mertens dropping a set for the first time at this year's tournament.
Wozniacki looked to continue where she left off in the second set, but Mertens produced a massive hold of serve in the opening game, rallying from 15-40 down.
Mertens went toe-to-toe with Wozniacki in a much-improved showing but she eventually came unstuck in the fifth game. That was until Wozniacki faded with the finish line in sight as Mertens reeled off three successive games to take a 6-5 lead, however, Wozniacki saved two set points to force an unlikely tie-break, which she won in a canter as she reached the Australian Open final for the first time.
Wozniacki  bt Mertens 6-3 7-6 [7-2]
Mertens – 28/35
Wozniacki – 25/18
Mertens – 3/2
Wozniacki – 7/5
BREAK POINTS WON
Mertens – 2/5
Wozniacki – 1/4
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Mertens – 60
Wozniacki – 59
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Mertens – 60/63
Wozniacki – 84/53
Mertens – 62
Wozniacki – 79