Azarenka grabs another Australian Open title
By Bill Scott
MELBOURNE, Australia _ Victoria Azarenka won the Australian Open for a second straight year on Saturday as she beat China’s Li Na, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, in a final marked by two dramatic injury incidents.
Li, the crowd favorite from the start at the Rod Laver arena, rolled her left ankle in the second set and hit her head on the hardcourt as the ankle gave way early in the third.
Both times, she took treatment from a doctor and trainer; both times she charged straight back into battle with the top seed who eventually lifted her second straight trophy at Melbourne Park.
A 10-minute Australia Day fireworks display also interrupted the flow of the match and ended only moments before Li, 30, took her second tumble upon the return to the court.
After hitting her head as her taped left ankle gave way, sixth seed Li didn’t lose consciousness but was seen immediately by the trainer and doctor on the court before being helped to her chair.
“I think I was a little bit worried when I was falling down,” said Li. “The head was touching the floor. Because two seconds I couldn’t really see anything. It was totally black.
“So when the physio come, she was like, ‘Focus on my finger.” I was start laughing. I was thinking, ‘This is tennis court, not like hospital.”’
After the six-minute interruption, the popular Chinese player was ready to go again.
Azarenka had only modest support among the crowd due in part to the controversial medical timeout late in her previous match after missing on five match points against Sloane Stephens. Many thought the tactic smacked of gamesmanship.
“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. And that’s the thing that I love to do, is to compete,” said Azarenka.
The top seed from Belarus, who will hold onto the WTA No. 1 ranking thanks to the victory over Li, broke down in tears in a victory that felt a bit tepid.
“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,” said the winner.
Li was playing her second Melbourne final in three years, after winning the French Open in 2011.
Had Azarenka lost the match, Serena Williams would have taken over the No. 1 spot on the WTA list.
The title was the second in Melbourne for Azarenka, who beat Maria Sharapova in the 2012 final, and the fifth in a row against Li, improving her record to 6-4.
Azarenka recovered from 5-2 down to 5-4 in the first set but a double fault then handed Li the opening frame.
Li fought from 4-2 down to 4-4 in the second despite the first fall, but Azarenka leveled the sets and then got the deciding break for 3-2 in the final set. She wrapped up matters with another break in the ninth game, when Li’s groundstroke sailed long.
The night ended with American twins Bob and Mike Bryan getting a record 13th men’s doubles title at the majors, 6-3, 6-4 against Dutchmen Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling 6-3 6-4. The former mark of 12 titles was held by Australians John Newcombe and Tony Roche.
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