It has proven to be a case of third time lucky for Caroline Wozniacki after she claimed her first major title by winning the Australian Open with victory over Simona Halep in a pulsating championship decider on Rod Laver Arena.
Wozniacki, who has been US Open runner-up twice (2009 and 2014), achieved her major breakthrough by beating Halep 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 6-4 in a punishing final contested amid stifling heat and across two hours and 50 minutes.
The triumph also gave the Dane the world number one ranking.
Wozniacki wept tears of joy after also returning to the top of the rankings – ending a record six-year stint between stints – with the watershed win at Melbourne Park.
In denying the brave but vanquished Halep her own elusive grand slam breakthrough, Wozniacki not usurped the Romanian as world number one but also delivered Denmark its first major singles crown.
Wozniacki showed her emotion as she explained how much winning the Australian Open had meant during the post-match presentation.
“I’ve dreamt of this moment for so many years,” she said.
“To be here today is a dream come true. My voice is shaking. I never cry. Today is a very emotional moment.”
Wozniacki gave a special mention to her father Piotr, who had coached her since she was seven years old.
“You’ve coached me from the start,” Wozniacki said.
“We’ve been through ups and downs but you stood by my side every step of the way. So thank you.”
Halep could not hid her disappointment after missing out again in her third appearance in the final of a major.
“Of course I’m sad,” she said.
“I couldn’t win today. But Caroline was better than me. For sure I will fight and I have many years to go. Hopefully I will face another challenge like today.”
Wozniacki rewarded for perseverance with Open triumph
Wozniacki’s stirring victory completed one of sport’s great comeback tales after she spiralled to 74th in the world in August of 2016, just 23 months after falling short in her second US Open final.
It has taken Wozniacki 11 years, 43 majors, 256 tournaments, 772 matches and untold hours of toil and tears to shed her tag as tennis’s most accomplished talent without a major win.
Halep made a nervy start to the finale.
Playing in sapping heat and humidity, she dropped serve with an overcooked backhand in the second game of the match as Wozniacki powered to a 3-0 lead.
But, after looking in control, Wozniacki’s first display of tension came with the second seed serving for the opening set at 5-3.
Distracted by an overzealous fan in Rod Laver Arena, Wozniacki urged the chair umpire to intervene.
The rattled Wozniacki promptly dropped serve for the first time, before regaining her cool to dominate the tie-breaker to pocket the opening set in 50 minutes.
Halep, who carried an ankle injury throughout her gruelling two-week campaign, called for the tournament physio while leading 3-2 in the second set.
The hobbling top seed resumed after having her pulse and blood pressure checked and bravely snatched the second set after reeling off three straight games to set up a thrilling conclusion.
But it was Wozniacki who finally prevailed, as she emerged from a 10-minute break allowed under the Open’s heat rule to claim the rollercoaster third set featuring seven services breaks.