MELBOURNE (Reuters) - World number one Simona Halep edged out 2016 champion Angelique Kerber 6-3 4-6 9-7 in a thrilling semi-final encounter to reach her first Australian Open final on Thursday.
Kerber, seeded 21st, fought off two match points in the 10th game of the final set before seeing two of her own go begging two games later.
Halep came back and broke serve, before edging through to victory in a two hour and 20 minute classic.
It was the second time Halep had saved match points this fortnight, as she also came back from the brink in her third round victory over American Lauren Davis, which went to 15-13 in the final set.
“I just had confidence in myself, I told myself to fight for every point and then rest afterwards,” Halep said in an on-court interview.
“I tried to stay calm but today I was like a rollercoaster. I didn’t give up, though and, if you don’t give up, you can win matches. I am proud of myself.”
The 26-year-old Romanian set up a Saturday final with second seed Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated surprise Belgian semi-finalist Elise Mertens 6-3 7-6(2).
Wozniacki showed her experience in saving two set points in the second set before winning the tiebreak to secure victory.
World number 49 Kyle Edmund’s remarkable run at Melbourne Park came to an end with a 6-2 7-6(4) 6-2 defeat by Croatian sixth seed Marin Cilic in the semi-finals.
Cilic reached his third grand slam final, where he will face defending champion Roger Federer or South Korea’s Chung Hyeon.
Ruthless Cilic routs ailing Edmund to reach final
Edmund baffled by media spotlight after Melbourne exploits
Chung’s frightening, but won’t scare Federer - Wilander
Halep reaps reward for aggressive approach
Chung can end ‘Big Four’ era with semi-final win
Melbourne run pushes Chung towards cult status back home
Halep outlasts Kerber in thriller to reach final
Wozniacki survives scare to reach maiden Melbourne final
Cornet charged with anti-doping violation
Wary Federer through to semis after Hawkeye hiccup
Chung blazes trail into Australian Open semi-finals
Order of play on Friday
Highlights of Thursday’s 11th day of the Australian Open, the first grand slam tournament of the year (times in GMT):
1400 CABAL-FARAH STUN BRYAN BROTHERS
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah advanced to their maiden men’s doubles grand slam final, defeating six-times Australian Open champions Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6(1) 7-5.
The 11th-seeded Colombian pair will meet Austrian Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic of Croatia in Saturday’s final.
Cilic reached his third grand slam final with a 6-2 7-6(4) 6-2 victory over Briton Edmund. Cilic fired 32 winners, including 11 aces, to seal the victory in two hours and 18 minutes.
World number one Halep saved two match points in the deciding set before outlasting Kerber 6-3 4-6 9-7 to reach the final. Halep, who prevailed in two hours and 20 minutes, takes on Wozniacki in the title clash.
“I’m shaking now, I’m really emotional. I’m really glad I could resist and win this match,” Halep, who like Wozniacki is targeting her first grand slam title, said.
Wozniacki staved off a late fightback from Mertens to advance to the final with a 6-3 7-6(2) victory.
0441 MARACH-PAVIC PAIR INTO MEN’S DOUBLES FINAL
Austrian Oliver Marach and Croatia’s Mate Pavic came from behind to beat Japan’s Ben McLachlan and German Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6 7-5 7-6(4) to make the men’s doubles final.
The temperature was 24 degrees Celsius and forecast to reach a high of 26.
Compiled by Nick Mulvenney, Shrivathsa Sridhar and Hardik Vyas; Editing by Greg Stutchbury, Jon Boyle and Pritha Sarkar