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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Caroline Wozniacki rode a stinging serve and staunch stamina into her second career Australian Open semifinal.

Wozniacki whipped 10 aces and converted six of seven break points battering a weary Carla Suárez Navarro into submission, 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-2, to reach the Melbourne final four for the first time in seven years.

Watch: Mertens Mauls Svitolina

The second-ranked Dane drilled 34 winners and dropped serve just once in a two hour, 11-minute triumph that ended about 1:37 a.m. local time.

"I knew it wasn't going to be that easy," Wozniacki said. "A lot of the games we played in the first set were very close. I had luck as well guessing right on some game points or break points. And in the second set I had the chance to close it out, which I didn't do and was very disappointed about. I was just proud that I managed to stay cool and finish it off in the third set."

Continuing her quest for a first Grand Slam title—and a shot to regain the world No. 1 ranking—Wozniacki will play Elise Mertens for a spot in Saturday’s final.

The 37th-ranked Mertens reeled off seven straight games surprising a gimpy Elina Svitolina, 6-4, 6-0, to charge into her first Grand Slam semifinal and become the first Belgian since Kirsten Flipkens in 2013 to reach a major final four.

In their lone prior meeting, Wozniacki defeated Mertens 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, on the red clay of Bastad last year.

"She's had an amazing start to the year, I think she's undefeated," Wozniacki said of Mertens. "So it's gonna be a tough one, but I'm excited for it to make another semifinals here, that's exciting."

A fiercely focused Wozniacki tore through the opening set with conviction tonight. Suarez Navarro was contesting games—four of the first seven games went to deuce—but Wozniacki was winning them all.

Forty-nine minutes into the match, Suarez Navarro finally held to get on the board and level the set at 1-all. Wozniacki immediately answered with a love hold.

Hitting heavier topspin, Suarez Navarro clawed her way to her first break for a 3-2 second-set lead. The Spaniard backed up the break for 4-2 and was taking the ball earlier earning a break point in the seventh game.

Wozniacki whipped an ace to deny it and navigated a tough hold with a three-ace game for 3-4.

Holding a 30-love lead, Suarez Navarro went for the wide serve but Wozniacki read it and ripped a forehand return down the line over the net post that ignited a comeback.

Defending brilliantly, Wozniacki forced Suarez Navarro into hitting an extra ball. The one-handed backhand sailed wide as Wozniacki converted her fourth break point in as many chances to get back on serve at 4-all. That sparked a run of eight straight points as the former world No. 1 stamped a love hold for 5-4.

Staring down a match point in the 10th game, the 5-foot-4 Spaniard saved it with some crunching crosscourt drives, eventually holding. Suarez Navarro imposed a love hold to force the tie break.

In the tie break, Wozniacki’s level dipped a bit. Suarez Navarro swept a backhand winner for 3-1 and stretched the lead to 6-3 on a couple of Wozniacki unforced errors. A crackling serve down the T sealed the set and forced the decider.

Resetting, the two-time US Open finalist began driving the ball with more depth and angle in dominating the deciding set.

"I stepped a little closer to the baseline and felt I had more energy than she did," Wozniacki said.

Wozniacki broke in Suarez Navarro’s first serve game and curled a crosscourt forehand backing up the break with a love hold for 3-1. Prevailing in a grinding forehand crosscourt exchange, the Dane held firm for 4-2.

The pounding from playing her fourth consecutive three-setter took a toll on Suarez Navarro, who was casting concerned glances to her support box and clutching at the back of her leg as a fresh Wozniacki scored the second break of the set for 5-2.

Forty-eight minutes after her last match point, Wozniacki earned triple match point when Suarez Navarro sprayed a backhand.

On her third match point, Wozniacki closed on a Suarez Navarro error raising her arms in triumph in a match that ended about 1:37 a.m. local time.


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