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AUCKLAND (Reuters) - Venus Williams became one of the oldest players to win a WTA title when she beat Caroline Wozniacki in the final of the Auckland Classic on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Williams took a little while to get going but managed to overcome the blustery conditions and a fired up Wozniacki to begin her Australian Open preparations by capturing her 46th career title.
The American, who lost the final on the central Auckland courts to Ana Ivanovic last year, had looked well out of sorts as she struggled to adjust to the wind and hot conditions before she eventually prevailed 2-6 6-3 6-3 in 110 minutes.
"I am an old tennis player now," said Williams, who became the fourth oldest winner on the WTA Tour at 34 years, five months and 24 days, with only Billie Jean King, Kimiko Date-Krumm and Martina Navratilova having been older.
"I waited until I was 33 until I came to New Zealand and that was the biggest mistakes of my life."
Wozniacki had wasted little time in forcing Williams onto the back foot, holding two break points in the opening game before the American finally held serve.
The Dane, however, then rattled off five successive games to take a 5-1 lead as she negated the seven-times grand slam winner's normally reliable service game and wrapped up the first set in 31 minutes, the first time she had won a set off the American in their six clashes.
Williams, who had appeared flat-footed and not covering the court as well as Wozniacki in the first set, was broken in the first game of the second set, but finally clicked into gear to take a 4-2 lead that she never looked like relinquishing.
The American sent the game into a decider with a scorching backhand winner that sealed the set in 38 minutes and then broke the Dane in the third game of the third set to take the advantage.
Wozniacki, 24, managed to save three match points with some incredible shot-making in the final game but Williams sealed victory when the world number eight hit a forehand into the net.
"I want to congratulate Venus for a great week," Wozniacki said before praising the American's longevity.
"Week after week you work so hard and you have been on tour for so long I have a picture on my phone when I was 12 and you told me to stay in school.
"A lot of things have changed since then but well done and good luck for the next couple of weeks as well."
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien; Editing by Julian Linden