Saturday, January 26, 2013
VICTORIA AZARENKA BEATS LI NA IN WOMENS FINALS TO WIN AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Defending Champion Victoria Azarenka retained her Australian Open title and kept hold of the world number one spot with victory over China's Li Na in Melbourn.
A final low on quality but high on drama was claimed by the Belarusian 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 as Li's hopes of becoming the first Asian player to win in Melbourne were dashed.
Twice the battered and bruised Li Na had to call for the trainer; the first time after going over on her ankle midway through the second set and again after tumbling in the first point after play resumed following a third-set stoppage for a nearby firework display.
The victory brought Azarenka her second Grand Slam title after last year's win at Melbourne Park, and ensured she will not be overtaken by Serena Williams in the next world rankings.
However, it was the 30-year-old Li who carried most of the support throughout the final, due in part to Azarenka's controversial medical timeout in her semi-final against Sloane Stephens.
Azarenka had been accused of gamesmanship, despite later insisting the timeout had been necessary because of breathing difficulties.
Either way, the negative attention she garnered in the build-up only added to the support for the already popular Li.
Roared on by a partisan crowd, she battled on bravely but, despite her best efforts, she was unable to prevent Azarenka from claiming the trophy and holding off Serena Williams at the rankings summit.
On a cool night, the final took some time to heat up with both players struggling with nerves.
Li appeared in serious trouble of having to retire when she went over on her left ankle during the fourth point of the fifth game - the trainer dashing straight on to court before administering seven minutes of treatment.
When she returned, having had the joint heavily strapped, there appeared no immediate sign of her movement being impaired as she starting hitting winners from all angles to get it back to 2-3.
She then set up three break points at 0-40 for 3-3 but put an easy backhand into the net, allowing Azarenka to rattle off five points on the trot to hold.
Azarenka remained on the front foot as the third set got under way, breaking for an early advantage.
But her issues on serve returned as a double fault saw Li draw level at 1-1.
Li held before a 10-minute stoppage due to the fireworks to celebrate Australia Day.
In the first point following the resumption, Li was down again, tumbling over on the same ankle before hitting her head on the hard surface.
The trainer was called once more, with Azarenka doing well to keep her composure to claim the game after going back behind her opponent with a forehand down the line.
The world No 1 was starting to get up a head of steam and she broke for 3-2 and swiftly made it 4-2 with one of her best games on serve in the match.
Li had a chance to draw level at 4-4 only to push a backhand return beyond the baseline.
And it proved to be her final opportunity as Azarenka held and then broke to claim her second successive Melbourne crown.