Tearful Victoria Azarenka trumps ailing Li Na in Melbourne to retain Australian Open title

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The Belarusian won her second Slam title but ceded the crowd's sympathy to the injured Chinese

Melbourne

During the on-court presentations here last night following Victoria Azarenka's 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory in the final over an injured Li Na, Sandy Roberts, the master of ceremonies, beckoned the runner-up to come forward. “She's battered and bruised and quite possibly buggered,” Roberts announced to the world.

At least Roberts's succinct assessment summed up Li's night. The fact that the 30-year-old Chinese had run Azarenka so close was remarkable considering her physical woes. Forty-eight hours after Azarenka's controversial medical time-out in her semi-final victory over Sloane Stephens, it was Li who had to send for the trainer twice, though this time nobody doubted the world No 6's motives in seeking help.

After taking the first set, Li was 3-1 down in the second when she fell heavily, turning her left ankle after being wrong-footed. Given her evident pain and the strapping that a trainer applied to the ankle, it was a surprise that she played as well as she did on the resumption.

Despite losing the second set, Li was 2-1 up in the decider when her ankle gave way again. This time she hit her head on the court surface after falling and momentarily blacked out. Following another medical time-out, Li again played with admirable spirit, only for Azarenka to take charge in the closing stages.

Li said afterwards: "I was thinking: how many years have I not been falling down on the court? It was amazing today. It happened twice."

If the quality of the tennis was patchy, it was still a remarkable final, with the loser of the first set winning the match for only the second time in the past 26 Australian Open finals. Azarenka successfully defended her title and her world No 1 ranking with admirable resolve given that the vast majority of the crowd in Rod Laver Arena were on Li's side.

Not only is the Chinese a big crowd favourite here, but Azarenka had also become a target for the jeer-leaders following her victory over Stephens, when her motives for taking a medical time-out just before her American opponent served to stay in the match were widely questioned.

Li's winners were greeted with cheers, while Azarenka's were sometimes met with near-silence. Even at the end the applause for the two-time champion was decidedly muted.

"You have to go through rough patches to achieve great things," Azarenka said afterwards. "It's been tough but I am happy here right now. There were new experiences for me in the last couple of days. I have to say thanks to my team for being so supportive."

The world No 1 said she had expected even worse from the crowd. "But what can you do?" she said. "You just have to go out and play your tennis. It was definitely not easy with all the attention, with all the press around.

"But it was definitely a new experience for me that I think I handled quite well. I can only learn from this experience and move forward and try to improve as a player and as a person."

She added: "Li Na was absolutely playing great tennis. Unfortunate things happened to her, but that's sport. I'm just happy that with everything I went through 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."

The match featured 16 breaks of serve and many more unforced errors than winners. Li led on both counts, striking 36 winners to Azarenka's 18 but making 57 errors to the Belarusian's 28. There were some exceptional baseline rallies, with Li's backhand a particularly potent weapon, but Azarenka's greater consistency proved decisive. At the end Azarenka sat on a chair and sobbed into a towel before going over to celebrate with her entourage.

Even before Roberts's colourful address in the presentation ceremony – which at least was not as embarrassing as the time he introduced the 1981 Miss Australia Leanne Dick as "Leanne Cock" – television executives were probably shuddering at the words of Redfoo, Azarenka's boyfriend.

Leaning over to grab her hand, and with television microphones capturing every word, the American singer told her: "I love you, baby. You're fucking amazing." They were not the best-chosen words but the sentiment was understandable.

American twins Bob and Mike Bryan became the most successful men's pair in Grand Slam history yesterday when they won their 13th doubles title together at the Australian Open.

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 the Australians John Newcombe and Tony Roche.

The left-handed Bob served out for victory to seal their sixth Australian Open title together, their 84th career title and their second consecutive Grand Slam after their win at the US Open in September.

 



PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness