Victoria Azarenka claimed the Australian Open title after defeating Li Na in a drama filled final on Saturday night.
Azarenka had endured a controversial semi-final against American teenager Sloane Stephens and her title defence in the final wasn’t without a little more drama.
Li required two medical timeouts and the match was paused for ten minutes when fireworks erupted over Melbourne as the city celebrated the Australia Day national holiday.
But Azarenka, who came into the match on a 13 game win streak, prevailed over Li, who had her own impressive 13-1 record thus far in 2013 coming into the final, 4-6 6-4 6-3.
The nerves were clearly affecting Azarenka pre-match and the crowd were far more receptive to Li after the Stephens incident, but she received her biggest applause when she wished the Aussie crowd a “happy Australia Day everybody”.
Li was actually the better player throughout the first set, winning it after Azarenka unsuccessfully challenged a double fault.
But the Belarusian broke Li twice in the early going to claim a 3-0 advantage in the second set before the Chinese sixth seed fell to the ground after twisting an ankle at a pivotal point- the score was 30-30 in the fifth game after Li had reclaimed a break point.
A strapped ankle didn’t stop another painful moment. Li crashed to the floor again after turning the same ankle not long after. She would play on, and even had her moments, but she couldn’t muster up enough to stop Azarenka claiming her second consecutive Australian Open title.
Azarenka was emotional post-match after what had been a taxing 48 hours of criticism and stress. But the crowd warmed to her as the night went on and as her American boyfriend, rapper Redfoo of LMFAO, so eloquently put it, “I love you. You’re f—— amazing.’’
Li’s road to the title match was as tough as any in recent memory. She had to take out two top five players in Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanksa and had she not of sustained that ankle injury she might well be celebrating her second grand slam title.
Li would have become just the 13th woman over the age of 30 to win a grand slam.
However the night belonged to Azarenka and she proved to be a gracious winner.
“I feel really happy right now. It's been a long match. It's been a tough match. Li Na was absolutely playing great tennis. Unfortunate things that happened to her, you know, but that's sport,” she said.
“I'm just happy that everything I went through, you know, I still could manage to give my best and really come out there and try to focus on my game and play tennis that I can produce.”
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