Azarenka keeps her eye on the prize to retain title

MELBOURNE Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:23pm IST

1 of 2. Victoria Azarenka of Belarus hits a return to Li Na of China during their women's singles final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, January 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Daniel Munoz

Related Topics

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka kept her eye firmly on the prize despite a host of distractions to rally from a set down and retain her title with victory over Li Na in a dramatic Australian Open final on Saturday.

The Belarussian had to block out an often blatantly hostile crowd, sit through two lengthy timeouts for Li's injuries and bide her time as a firework display lit up Melbourne's skyline before she finally extinguished her Chinese rival's hopes with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory.

Li twice needed treatment after heavy falls - the second time blacking out momentarily after banging her head on the court.

Azarenka looked stunned and then relieved at the end of the 160-minute contest when she realised had won her second grand slam title, ensuring she would retain the number one world ranking to boot.

Even in her moment of triumph, however, the lukewarm response of the crowd on Rod Laver Arena was a reminder of the controversy surrounding her semi-final win over Sloane Stephens.

"This one is way more emotional," she said. "It's gonna be extra special for me, for sure ... you're the only one who knows what you've been going through these two weeks.

"So it's definitely an emotional one and it's going to be special."

It was a second loss in a Melbourne Park final in three years for Li but the Chinese had been more concerned about her health after the second fall.

"I was a little bit worried when I was fell down, my head hit the floor and for two seconds I couldn't really see anything. It was totally black," she said.

"So when the doctor and the physio came out on to the court, I sat up, but it took a long time to fully come around ... I could hear this ringing in my ears."

If the 16 service breaks and a high unforced error count - Li had 57 - meant the match was not one for the real purists, there were some fine rallies and it lacked nothing in incident.

Azarenka's controversial medical timeout in her victory over American Stephens - which left the Belarussian fending off allegations of gamesmanship - clearly won her few friends in Melbourne and there was no doubt who was the crowd favourite.

Former French Open champion Li had been roared on to court like a local hopeful and every point she won was greeted with huge applause, even on the many occasions that it derived from a Azarenka error.

Mixed with the traditional Chinese sporting war cry of "jia you", one voice from the crowd shouted: "C'mon Sloane", while another responded to the Belarusian's trademark grunts by shouting: "Quiet please, Azarenka".

"What happened with Sloane, it was a big deal, for sure," Azarenka said referring to the criticism she received for taking a lengthy timeout immediately after blowing five match points against Stephens.

"But I take it as a great learning experience and just try to live the moment and take the best things out of what happened and move forward."

REAL INJURY

Li double-faulted on her very first serve and was broken immediately but that only set the pattern on both sides of the net for the first set.

The Chinese recovered to dominate the opening stanza, ramping up the forehand that was once her weakness and hitting some blistering winners with her backhand.

Azarenka had raced out to a 3-1 lead in the second set when Li took her first tumble, turning on her left ankle and crashing to the ground.

The Chinese had the joint strapped and came out firing to get back to 4-4 before Azarenka upped her game again and levelled the match up when Li went wide with a forehand.

It was Li's turn to go ahead in the third set and she was 2-1 up when play was called to a halt for 10 minutes for a firework display in honour of Australia Day.

Li took her second fall on the first point after resumption and lay prone on the floor receiving attention.

"Listen it was a real injury!" she said to laughter in her news conference.

"Maybe if I hadn't fallen down, it would have been another story. You never know. But the reality is I fell down, so nothing can change."

Azarenka quickly grabbed what turned out to be the decisive break and dominated the rest of the match, ensuring she would retain her title when another Li forehand sailed long.

"In these kind of matches you always have to take the opportunity of the important moments," Azarenka said. "In the second set, in the third set, that's what I was doing better.

"In the first set, she was really on top of me, I think, she was really going for her shots and making everything happen."

American twins Bob and Mike Bryan later became the most successful men's pair in grand slam history when they won their 13th doubles title.

The 34-year-olds beat the Dutch pairing of Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling 6-3 6-4 to break the record of 12 grand slams they had shared with Australians John Newcombe and Tony Roche.

With two locals in the boys' final for the first time since 1994, the home crowd was guaranteed at least one celebration for Australia Day.

Nick Kyrgios beat Thanasi Kokkinakis 7-6 6-3 to take the honours, while 15-year-old Croatian Ana Konjuh was too good for Czech second seed Katerina Siniakova and took the girls' title with a 6-3 6-4 victory.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Public Health

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Cost Cutting

Cost Cutting

PM Narendra Modi boots officials out of the first class cabin  Full Article 

Airtel Profit Jumps

Airtel Profit Jumps

Bharti Q2 net profit more than doubles   Full Article 

Leisure Riding

Leisure Riding

Harley-Davidson woos affluent young Indians with bike culture  Full Article 

Maruti Earnings

Maruti Earnings

Maruti Suzuki net profit up 29 percent, beats estimates.  Full Article 

ICICI Results

ICICI Results

ICICI Bank Q2 profit up 15 percent, beats estimates.  Full Article 

Moody's on India

Moody's on India

Moody's welcomes India's policy steps, but wants to see more.  Full Article 

End Of QE

End Of QE

U.S. Fed ends bond buying, exhibits confidence in U.S. recovery.  Full Article 

Cook Comes Out

Cook Comes Out

Apple's Cook: "I'm proud to be gay"  Full Article 

Refining Margins

Refining Margins

BPCL aims to double refining margins with refinery expansion.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage