Australian Open 2018: Caroline Wozniacki wins inaugural Grand-Slam crown in epic Melbourne final

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki won her maiden grand-slam title at the Australian Open after overcoming a gutsy performance from world number one Simona Halep 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 in a grueling and two-hours-and-49-minute epic at Melbourne Park.

In an epic deciding set, with both women suffering in the stifling heat on Rod Laver Arena, there were nine breaks of serve as both women wilted in the heat.

The win sees the Dane return to world number one in the world after a six-year hiatus, and the first Danish tennis player to win a major title, with Halep left to lick her wounds once more.

Wozniacki the aggressor

With both women in their third major final and with the top seed in her Halep havind had to contend with suggestions the world number one was not capable of getting over the line to win her first major crown. Early on, those thoughts surfaced once more.

After Wozniacki took the first game, the Romanian was visibly nervous and dropped her serve. Her opponent was the less impeded by the occasion in her own third major final after losing twice in the US Open final.

Both ladies exchanged games, as Halep got on the scoreboard having yet to drop a single point on her own serve but at 2-4 down, was still playing catch-up.

The top-seeded Romanian after a shaky start was beginning to dominate with her power forehand, but still in arrears, Wozniacki was holding off the efforts of Halep thus far.

A tight seventh game saw the Dane take the upper hand after a mesmeric rally saw the second seed push out to a 5-2 lead, just a game from taking the opening set on Rod Laver.

Halep held, which asked the question of Wozniacki to serve out, in a game which felt could be a huge psychological factor to the outcome of the whole contest. The Dane buckled. At 0-40, she then saved two break points, but in the face of the Romanian's power was broken at 30-40, after lofting a sliced backhand long. 

Halep again held comfortably to level at 5-5, as both women held firm to force the breaker for the opening set advantage.

The two took points of one another's serve, but Wozniacki was showing admirable scrambling efforts on the baseline, keeping her nose in front in the tie-break. After opening up a 6-2 lead, the Dane had four chances to take the set, and after blasting a backhand to the Halep forehand needed just one, as the top seed could only flop a return into the net. Wozniacki took the opening set - her first in a slam final.

Gutsy Halep battles to level

Perhaps against the script, it was the Dane who was clear aggressor in her game, with Halep yet unable to get a consistent grasp on her foe's greater court coverage.

Wozniacki's trademark ferocity in her backhand was still winning out on the court, and the Romanian was scratching for a foot-hold in proceedings. 

Halep was struggling to dominate her opponent and after a titanic third game with multiple deuces, saved four break points, then flopped a delightful drop-shot over the net, to cling on to hold and edge ahead on-serve 2-1 in the second set. 

As the heat rule came into effect on a sweltering Melbourne night, the pressure-cooker atmosphere built once more. The Romanian kept ahead at 3-2, and then called for the doctor but continued after complaining of dizziness in the Victoria heat. The pressure was - perhaps ironically - growing on Halep. 

The latter was struggling to extend points, but keeping rallies short, was still holding firm if a tad woozy. 

Frustratingly for Wozniacki, plan B was working with a more centered approach for an ailing Halep, beginning to limp around the court, but broke. At 5-3 however, knowing she was a game away from leveling - and able to take an enforced extended heat break - faltered again, but dug in with huge guts and perseverance to save two break points at 15-40.

Steeling herself on her third set-point seized her chance to take the set 6-3 and level the match after an-hour-and-thirty-eight-minutes on court, as both weary combatants retreated to the solace of the dressing room.   

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Tense and fraught decider 

After both women had gone the distance in their semi-finals two days previously - most memorably Halep against former champion Angelique Kerber - a deciding set would determine the destination of the first major of the calendar year.

On resumption, the break had done more for the Dane on first evidence with Halep still suffering from a lack of vim in her movement. Wozniacki pounced to break but after a shaky but epic service game - including a grueling 23-shot rally on one of six deuces - was broken broke immediately as the Dane double-faulted.

The contest continued to see-saw in the searing heat on Rod Laver, the crowd gripped as the match ticked into its' third hour, but with neither player able to hold serve in what was becoming a battle of personal belief. Wozniacki broke back to love, before Halep again counter-punched for the fourth-straight break of serve to 15-40.  

The top seed then finally dug in to level the match at 3-3 after holding, both women three games from an inaugural slam crown. 

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Nervous Dane seizes chance

With Wozniacki's turn to now feel the heat of competition with a slight knee issue, Halep, with renewed vigour seized her opening to break once more to take the lead 4-3 in the set.

As the Dane called the trainer to assess her leg - and almost to regroup mentally - the 27-year-old from Odense needed a second wind. 

Halep knew she was two service holds from the title, but across the net in accordance with remarkable final set, her opponent was refusing to go quietly and broke for third time - the sixth in total in the decider. The score stood at 4-4, no closer to knowing a winner. Wozniacki went ahead with a rare hold, four points from glory.

The Romanian could afford no slip-ups serving to save the championship, and the second seed grabbed her chance with trembling hands. Halep wobbled to 30-30 with her first double-fault, and after a epic defence-duel rally the Dane brought up Championship point.

In another show of Wozniacki's immense scrambling from the base-line, the Dane chipped a backhand from a clattered Halep fore, with Halep netting the return. A battered Wozniacki collapsed to the court in ecstacy having won her first grand-slam title 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 in an epic two-hours-and-49 minutes, as she leap-frogs her beaten foe to number one in the world once more.