MELBOURNE, Australia – After putting a right-footed shot into the net and falling short in a game she played for the game, Angelique Kerber fell to her knees in pure exhaustion. Lifting her head, she looked to her left and caught sight of the equally exhausted Simona Halep, who was bent at the waist and supported only by the racket in her hand that extended to the ground.
That's the moment that practically summed up the second women's semifinal match on Thursday at the Australian Open. Halep, the tournament's top favorite and the world's number one player, was the last woman to survive her match against Kerber in three sets, 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 to advance to the championship on Saturday.
And this is what Halep guaranteed tennis fans: a high stakes match against Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated Elise Mertens that day by 6-3, 7-6 (2).
Now, Halep and Wozniacki are sure to win their first Grand Slam title.
There are so many juicy tidbits linked to the Saturday championship match:
Serena Williams has told Tennys Sandgren He apologizes after his career The Australian Open ended in the midst of claims that he is a supporter of the controversial alternative movement.
After a break of 14 months for the birth of her first child, Serena Williams will return to the tournament to play at the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California in March.  659010] Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, the two best women sowed in the Australian Open, will meet in the final at Melbourne Park as each player looks for his first Grand Slam victory.
• The winner will not only win the Aussie Open trophy, but will step away as the No. 1 player in the world.
• It will be the coronation of an Aussie Open champion for the first time since Hana Mandlikova. Beat Wendy Turnbull in 1980.
• Halep could become the first Australian Open champion to save match point against two different opponents during the race that year.
In fact, both players have saved match points in the last two weeks and the winner will become the seventh player in the Open era to win an Aussie Open title after saving the match point.
Multiple layers of physical and mental obstacles overcome.
A new Grand Slam champion.
Sounds like a plug for the reality series "Survivor". Tournament officials may consider a ceremony to put out the torch at the end of the championship game.
Wozniacki enters the final feeling that he is playing with house money. And it's not because I've won a couple of hundred dollars at the casino this week; It has more to do with surviving his second-round match against Jana Fett when she was down 5-1 in the third set and faced two match points.
In the semifinal, it was another mental and physical challenge that she had to win, since she was serving for the match until 5-4 in the second set.
Wozniacki lost the next two games, and there was a collective "uh-oh" atmosphere in the arena.
Here in 2011, she faced the same situation in the same place. Playing as the No. 1 seed in a first major at that time, Wozniacki collapsed completely, losing that match against Li Na.
He thought about that when he faced two set points against Mertens.
"Seven years later," Wozniacki said of memories of 2011, "and it is still here".
This time there was no third set when Wozniacki struggled to force the set in a tiebreaker, which he easily won.
"I just managed to get together," he said. "And fortunately he closed it."
For Halep, the challenges in his semifinal match, and throughout the tournament, were physical. And for anyone who dares to question their hardness, you just have to slip the tape of these last two weeks.
First, he survived that ankle difficult to see in his first round victory over Stand out Aiava.
Two rounds later, Halep came back from a set down and fought three match points to beat American Lauren Davis in a battle that included 48 games in the tournament and a third set that lasted 2 hours, 23 minutes. It was the best match of this year's tournament.
On Thursday, Halep faced two more match points in the semifinal against Kerber, adding a total of five for the tournament, including one in that crucial game in the third set. Halep won that game, achieving the score 6-6 and surviving four more round trips before prevailing.
"I had two moments when I felt the game was over," Halep said. "He had no power and everything was gone"
That's how he felt against Davis too.
But, still, Halep is here.
So the Australian Open 2018 will see a new champion crowned, although none seemed too enthusiastic about the possibility after their matches.
When asked about what it's like to be on the verge of winning his first major, Wozniacki, who has lost both of his previous final attempts, shrugged in what is potentially a "moment change" race. ] "It's another ending, it's another great two weeks," Wozniacki said. "Regardless of what happens now, I've done my best."
He asked the same question a few hours later, Halep was so carefree.  "It's just another game," he said. "Right now, it does not matter. Only the fact that I won this match and I can play the final again "
Do not believe in the (lack of) exaggeration.
Wozniacki has to be excited, she has been the No. 1 player for 67 weeks in her career and once held that position for 49 consecutive weeks, she has 27 titles, including her biggest to date, the crown of last year's WTA finals.
However, as our friends at FiveThirtyEight have pointed out, she is in the conversation of being the best tennis player without a Grand Slam title.  Simona Halep has saved a total of five match points in her career until the final of the Australian Open. WILLIAM WEST / AFP / Getty Images
Halep, the best ranked player in the world in the last 16 weeks, has also reached two previous Grand Slam titles, losing the French Open in 2014 and 2017.
Then there's this: The best player in the world, Serena Williams, she's not here. Just a few days ago, he said he will return to competitive tennis next month representing the United States in a Fed Cup competition against the Netherlands.
Serena will return. Soon. She hopes to be ready for the next three Grand Slam tournaments.
The return of the queen is coming.
And she's going to be hungry.
For Wozniacki and Halep, the best time to eat is here. .