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Wozniacki wins thrilling Aussie Open for first Grand Slam title

Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki in action during her match against Romania's Simona Halep. Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia, January 27, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato 1 / 2
Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki celebrates with the trophy after winning the final against Romania's Simona Halep. Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia, January 27, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato 2 / 2

Caroline Wozniacki is finally a Grand Slam champion, clinching her first major title and securing a return to world No. 1 with a 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4 win over top seed Simona Halep in a thrilling Australian Open final on Saturday night.

Wozniacki, the No. 2 seed, is the first player from Denmark to win a Grand Slam singles title after 43 majors and two failed attempts in finals. She had runner-up finishes at the 2009 and 2014 U.S. Opens.

The 27-year-old Wozniacki fell backward onto the court when Romania's Halep, serving in the third set, netted a backhand on the only match point of the battle in Melbourne that lasted 2 hours, 49 minutes.

"I have to take a second to hug Daphne ... it's a dream come true, and my voice is shaking, it's a very emotional moment," a teary-eyed Wozniacki said, cradling the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup at the presentation ceremony.

"I want to congratulate Simona. I know today is a tough day and I'm sorry I had to win. It was an incredible match and an incredible fight, again I'm sorry."

The win returned Wozniacki to the No. 1 ranking, six years after losing it at the 2012 Australian Open.

"I'm never going to get the question again about being a world No. 1 without a Slam," Wozniacki said after leaving the court.

It was the first time in the Open era that players ranked No. 1 and 2 were meeting in a major final without either having won a Grand Slam title.

"I think last year, already for a year and a half, I've proved that I can beat anyone out there on court," Wozniacki said in her post-championship press conference. "When you're in the finals, I'm not going to lie, I was really nervous before going out there on court, but once I kind of settled in and we had the warmup, I thought, 'I have everything to win.'

"At the end of the day, whatever happens happens. I'm going to go out fighting. If it's not enough today, then it is what it is, but I'm going to be proud of my effort."

Both players battled leg problems on a hot night under the lights at Rod Laver Arena.

"I was really tired," Halep said after the match. "I had so many problems at my feet, pain everywhere. But, you know, I think I did pretty well with all the things that were going on.

"After the first set, I just was out. I don't know what happened. No energy, no power. But then I just said that I have to hit all the balls, and then I could take the second set."

Serena Williams, whose last pro event was the 2017 Australian Open which she won to clinch her 23rd major victory, sent her congratulations to Wozniacki via Twitter. Williams announced she was pregnant in April and gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, in September.

"I got too nervous to watch but woke up to @CaroWozniacki new number one and aussie open champ. So awesome. So happy. Are those tears? Yup they are. from a year ago to today I'm so proud my friend so proud. Literally can't even sleep now," Williams tweeted.