By Piers Newbery-BBC Sport at Melbourne Park
Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki will meet in Saturday’s Australian Open final with both women hoping to finally win a first Grand Slam title.
The top two seeds make their Melbourne final debuts at 08:30 GMT.
Also at stake is the number one ranking – and Denmark’s Wozniacki, 27, would overtake 26-year-old Romanian Halep with a victory.
It is the first time in the Open era both Grand Slam finalists have saved match points en route to the final.
Halep saw off three against Lauren Davis in the third round – eventually winning 15-13 in the final set – and then saved another two against Angelique Kerber as she won the semi-final 9-7 in the decider.
“I was not afraid of losing, so maybe that’s why I won those [points],” said Halep, the first player in the open era to save match points in multiple matches one the way to a Slam final.
“Then I got the confidence back that I’m still alive and I can do it.”
Halep rolled her ankle in her opening match and it continues to cause some discomfort.
“I don’t want to think about that, to be honest,” she said. “I just want to give again everything Saturday, and after that I will have a good holiday.”
Wozniacki was on the verge of a second-round exit when she trailed Jana Fett 5-1 and faced two match points in the final set, but the Dane fought back magnificently.
‘I’m really happy and proud of how I’ve managed to turn things around when things weren’t going my way, and keep it up whenever it was going my way,” she said.
“I’m just excited. It’s another finals.”
The top seeds with no Slam titles
Simona Halep became world number one in October while Caroline Wozniacki won the WTA finals trophy in the same month
The final pits two of the best players never to have won a Grand Slam against each other, with a major title on the line.
Both women have endured the questions that surround players who top the rankings without winning one of the sport’s four biggest titles.
Halep, who became number one last October, has twice finished runner-up at the French Open, most painfully when she led the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko by a set and 3-0 in last year’s final.
“I was in this position at the French Open, so maybe I can make a better match,” said Halep.
“I can just make it more relaxed and take it like a normal match.”
Wozniacki was the year-end number one in both 2010 and 2011, but finished runner-up at the US Open to Kim Clijsters in 2009 and Serena Williams in 2014.
Perhaps her toughest defeat to take, however, was the Australian Open semi-final in 2011, when she held match points but eventually lost to China’s Li Na.
“That’s the one that’s been most disappointing to me throughout my career,” she said.
“I’ve had many bad losses, many great wins. That’s one of the ones that hurt extra because it was going into the final of a Grand Slam.
“I felt like I was playing better on the day. I felt like it was my time to get there. I feel I’m more aggressive.”
Halep might be the number one but second seed Wozniacki has had the better of their previous meetings, leading the head-to-head 4-2.
The Dane won both their matches in 2017, on grass in Eastbourne followed by a 6-0 6-2 hard-court thrashing in Singapore on her way to the WTA Finals title in October.
Both finalists have added attacking punch to their already brilliant defences, with Wozniacki hitting both serve and forehand harder than in 2017, while Halep is trying to stay on the offensive.
The Romanian’s forehand is the most potent groundstroke between the pair with 81 winners, and Halep has hit 24 more winners in total than Wozniacki during this tournament, but 50 more unforced errors.
“I feel more experienced. Also stronger mentally,” said Halep.
“And the way I play, it’s different. I feel I’m more aggressive. I did 50 winners [in the semi-final]. Eight aces, if you can imagine?”
Halep has also been on court for 11 hours and 30 minutes, compared to nine hours and 59 minutes for Wozniacki.
However, this final more than most will be a test of nerve as one of the sport’s leading names will finally land a major title – and for the loser, the wait will go on.
“I’m just going to go out there and have fun, enjoy the moment,” said Wozniacki.
“It’s been a great two weeks. I’m really happy to be there. As I said early on in the week, I could have been home already.”