Victoria Azarenka of Belarus poses with the Daphne Akhurst
Memorial Cup after defeating Li Na of China in the women's
singles final at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
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.
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
"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
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
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."
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
"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
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.