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Caroline Wozniacki wins Australian Open and returns to world No. 1 with Simona Halep victory

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Caroline Wozniacki exorcised demons of the past to win her first Grand Slam title, in her third final attempt, by beating Simona Halep in a gruelling near-three-hour final at the Australian Open. Some nine years after her first major final – against Kim Clijsters at the US Open in 2009 – the second seed removed herself from a group of players who had been to world No. 1 but never lifted a major, and returned to the top of the WTA rankings in the process with a battling 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-4 win. It was the first time that the top two seeds had met in an Open Era Grand Slam final with neither having won a major before and Wozniacki became the first Dane to win a major. For Halep, it was an all too familiar story. MORE: TENNIS History shows Roger Federer’s return to world No. 1 in Rotterdam is no guarantee Roger Federer on brink of history as he sets sights firmly on Rafael Nadal Nastase has ‘sexual harassment’ & ‘racially insensitive comments’ ban reduced Halep came up short (Picture: AFP/Getty) Having lost both her previous Slam finals to Maria Sharapova and Jelena Ostapenko at Roland Garros, the 26-year-old was once again defeated at the final hurdle in a match that went the distance. Wozniacki knows all too well the pain of her opponent, having also been beaten by Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows in 2014 as well as Clijsters five years before, but the agony of her past defeats will no doubt have been eased with her first major title. Both had saved match points on their way to the final in what had been a brilliant final, but it was Wozniacki who grabbed the most win of all. The Dane was without a run to a final of a Slam since that defeat to Williams, and her ranking dipped as low as 74 in 2016. Both had suffered defeats in two Grand Slam finals prior to the match (Picture: Getty) It’s back to the drawing board for Halep (Picture: AFP/Getty) And it’s fitting for her to return to the top of the women’s leaderboard for the first time since January 2012. Wozniacki had won her last three meetings with the world No. 1, including a 6-0 6-2 thrashing at the WTA Finals in Singapore, and she got off to the brighter start, breaking for a 2-0 lead after some clean early hitting. The Dane has form for wobbling at the big moments, though, and when serving for the first set nerves struck again. Wozniacki came out on top (Picture: Getty) Halep was beaten (Picture: AFP/Getty) She saved two break points from 0-40 down but couldn’t deny Halep the third opportunity. However, as she did in the semi-final against Elise Mertens, Wozniacki composed herself and took a one-set lead in the breaker – the first set she’d won in a Grand Slam final. Halep showed her resilience by denying Wozniacki four break point chances at the start of the second, but soon after required treatment court side. Halep required treatment (Picture: Getty) Halep was struggling in the heat (Picture: AFP/Getty) However, the world No. 1 dug deep and broke for a 5-3 lead in the second. Halep was struggling physically but kept her resolve to level the match. With scorching and humid Melbourne temperatures taking their toll, the players were given a 10-minute break at the end of the second as the heat rule came into play. Halep levelled the match (Picture: Getty) Wozniacki dug deep (Picture: Getty) Wozniacki regained her focus to first hold from 0-30 down at the start of the decider, and then to break the Halep serve. But nerve shone through again as a double fault handed Halep a way back into the match immediately. A great day for Wozniacki (Picture: AFP/Getty Images) The pair then traded breaks once more, with neither willing to truly snatch the momentum. Halep bucked the four-break tread to hold and then broke for a 4-3 lead, with the title seemingly within her grasp, but Wozniacki hit back for 4-4 before breaking again at the death to lift the title…

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