An emotional Caroline Wozniacki is finally a Grand Slam champion and world No 1 again after edging Simona Halep out of an epic Australian Open final.
There was ecstasy for the 27 year-old Dane and only bitter disappointment for Simona Halep after she finally wrapped up a 7-6 3-6 6-4 victory that took two hours and 49 minutes to win what was her third grand slam final.
Wozniacki collapsed to the floor in tears after Halep hit a backhand into the net to be broken for the fifth time. She will return to the world No 1 position exactly six years after giving it up – the longest gap in reclaiming the position in WTA history.
Caroline Wozniacki is the new champion of the Australian Open after coming through an epic encounter vs Simone Halep
The No 2 seed becomes the first Danish tennis player to win a grand slam tournament with her Australian Open win
Halep appeared to be in discomfort throughout the final, but still came within one break of serve from winning the title
Wozniacki will return to the top of the WTA rankings six years after she last did, the longest gap in the history of tennis
‘I dreamt of this moment for so many years, it’s a dream come true,’ said Wozniacki. ‘It was an incredible match, an incredible fight. I’m sorry I had to win Simona. I was a nervous wreack this morning I wanted to win so badly.’
Halep not only loses that status, but is left waiting for a first major, having looked on the verge of cramp at several points in a gruelling encounter.
‘I want to congratulate Caroline, you played amazing. Of course I’m sad but Caroline was too good for me today,’ said a gracious Halep, who lost her third grand slam final.
Wozniacki turned the deciding set around after taking a medical timeout at 3-4 in the third set – breaking twice thereafter to claim the £2.3 million cheque for the victor. The players ran each other to a standstill in one of the best women’s finals at a big tournament in recent years.
There could hardly have been more riding on this final, given the ranking situation, prize money and both players’ desperation to leave the club of being a world number one never to have won a Grand Slam.
Wozniacki and Halep pose with the elected coin tosser at the net ahead of the Australian Open women’s singles final
Wozniacki got off to a great start in the first set as she sealed the first break of the match to take an early lead over Halep
Halep initially struggled to find her rhythm and allowed Wozniacki an early advantage in the first set of the match
The tournament’s No 2 seed Wozniacki celebrates after sealing the first set in a closely contested tie break in Melbourne
On a steaming hot night in Melbourne they took to the court and Wozniacki was the more positive from the start, forcing two break points at 1-0. She netted a forehand on the first but forced a groundstroke error on the second and held to go 3-0 up.
Broadly speaking she was being rewarded for the adventurous tactic of hitting down the line and stretching the equally athletic Halep.
Unfortunately for the Dane she blinked when serving for it at 5-3, complaining about some crowd noise and becoming a little more passive to be broken back.
In the tiebreak, however, she assumed the more positive mindset once again and forged ahead from the start, taking it 7-2 with some ease, again being prepared to hit down the line.
Woznaicki could have made a decisive move when she missed four break points at 1-1 in the second. Her backhand was still in fine working order but her forehand was faltering, as it sometimes can.
The next two games went with serve and then Halep called on the doctor to have her blood pressure checked amid the muggy conditions, far more humid when it got really hot at the end of the first week.
Wozniacki deals with the humid conditions with a towel filled with ice during a break between games at Melbourne Park
Halep of Romania takes a medical timeout between games in her women’s with a physio taking her blood pressure
The Romanian appeared to be struggling with discomfort in her stomach but still managed to win the second set
The last touches of sunlight can be seen on the horizon as the players continue in front of a packed arena in Melbourne
Halep walks off the court as the heat rule comes into effect to give both players a 10-minute break following the second set
Neither player was looking particularly fresh, unsurprisingly, but Halep – who appeared to be suffering the onset of cramp – was the one who moved ahead when she fired a forehand into the corner on break point to go 5-3 up.
By the end of the second set Wozniacki had missed eight out of nine break points and could consider that during the ten-minute break activated under the heat rules.
However, she put that right when hitting a rasping forehand to seal the break for 2-0 in the decider. That work was undone when she was broken in a marathon third game that left it 2-1 after 34 minutes.
But Halep handed the advantage back when netting a backhand to be broken in the next game. Having serve broken was becoming the norm and after falling behind 3-4 Wozniacki called the trainer on to have strapping administered to her left knee.
The Romanian was left to stew and was duly broken with Wozniacki then clinging on to her serve to move to 5-4. She broke again to thirty to edge the match, taking 110 points to 108. It was that close.
Wozniacki of Denmark required her own medical time out after going a break down in the third and final set of the match
Halep continued to struggle with discomfort but still managed to stay competitive in the third and final set of the match
Wozniacki falls to the floor in tears after sealing her first grand slam title that will see her return to world No 1
Halep accepts her Halep holds the runners-up trophy after losing to Denmark’s Wozniacki in the Australian Open final