Caroline Wozniacki's painful wait is over after tennis's perennial grand slam bridesmaid finally reigned with a compelling Australian Open final triumph
In a gripping climax to one of the most memorable women's Opens on record, Wozniacki wore down battered top seed Simona Halep 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-4 in two hours and 49 minutes of incredibly intense tennis last night.
The Great Dane wept tears of joy after also returning to the top of the rankings - ending a record six-year stint between drinks - with the watershed win at Melbourne Park.
Like prized fighters, the two combatants traded blow for blow all night, with Wozniacki ultimately prevailing after clubbing 110 winners to Halep's 108.
In denying the brave but vanquished Halep her own elusive grand slam breakthrough, Wozniacki not only usurped the Romanian as world No.1 but also delivered Denmark its maiden grand slam singles crown.
"I've dreamt of this moment for so many years. To be here today is a dream come true," Wozniacki said after landing her 28th career title, the $4 million winner's purse and at least a 68th week as world No.1 - precisely six years after relinquishing top status at the 2012 Open.
"My voice is shaking. I never cry. Today is a very emotional moment."
Wozniacki's stirring victory completed one of sport's great comeback tales after the 27-year-old spiralled to 74th in the world in August 2016, just 23 months after falling short in her second US Open final.
It's taken her 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 grand slam win.
It's surreal. I knew today was going to be an incredible day or a day where I'll be sad leaving the court. It was my day today. I'm just so thankful," Wozniacki said.
"I've believed in myself for so long. I've been a little unlucky. Played players that were better than me on the day.
"In the previous Grand Slams I've been close. These two weeks it's been going my way. Sometimes there needs to be a little luck.
"I could have been out in the second round."
The unwanted "honour" of being the game's best player without a grand slam crown now cruelly belongs to Halep.
The 26-year-old's shattering defeat follows finals losses on the Paris clay in 2014 and 2017.
Halep made a nervy start to the winner-takes-all tournament finale.
Playing in sapping heat and humidity, the Romanian quickly trailed 3-0 and 5-2 before fighting back to force a tiebreaker.
Wozniacki, though, regained her cool 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 the one-time New York marathon runner who finally prevailed, with Wozniacki emerging from a 10-minute break allowed under the Open's heat rule to claim the rollercoaster third set featuring seven services breaks.
Wozniacki's triumph comes 10 days after surviving two match points and recovering from 5-1, 40-15 down in the deciding set of her second-round heartstopper against Jana Fett.
Big-hearted Halep saved a total of five match points of her own in an epic third-round escape against Lauren Davis and enthralling semi-final success over Angelique Kerber.
But there was no third Houdini act, with Halep settling for a $2 million consolation pay day after coming up short in her historic quest to become the first woman to win a major after saving match points in multiple matches.