Azarenka wins women's Australian Open title
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus plays a backhand in her women's final match against Na Li of China during day thirteen of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. / Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
MELBOURNE, Australia Victoria Azarenka overcome an often hostile crowd to win back-to-back Australian Open titles, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a dramatic final on Saturday that contained a break for fireworks, two medical timeouts and a nasty fall to the court by Li.
The Chinese star first tumbled to the court after twisting her left ankle, and had it taped after falling in the fifth game of the second set.
On the first point after a 10-minute pause in the third set while fireworks boomed overhead from nearby Australia Day celebrations, Li fell over again and slammed the back of her head into the court.
The 2011 French Open champion was treated immediately by a tournament doctor and had another time out before being allowed to resume the match. The second incident didn't appear to affect Li's movement.
Azarenka, who broke down in tears and sobbed into her towel when the match ended, won four of the next six games to claim her second major title and retain the No. 1 ranking.
"Unfortunately, you have to go through some rough patches to achieve great things. That's what makes it so special for me," she said. "I went through that, and I'm still able to kiss that beautiful trophy."
The win meant that Azarenka will maintain top spot and Serena Williams, who lost in the quarterfinals, will become the new No. 2 in the rankings.
On a crisp Saturday night, Azarenka won the coin toss and elected to receive, a ploy that seemed to work when a nervous Li was broken to start the match. After a double fault on the first point, Li's forehand long gave Azarenka the early lead.
The 2-hour, 40-minute match featured 16 service breaks, with Li losing her service nine times.
When she first injured her ankle, Li was trailing 3-1 in the second set. When she came back, she won three of the next four games to level the set at 4-4, but Azarenka broke back and then her serve to level the match.
Azarenka broke in the opening game of the final set, just two games before the match was suspended for the fireworks, a planned stoppage of play that both players were notified about before the match.
While Azarenka jogged around and practiced her serving motion during the 10-minute fireworks break, Li sat on her courtside chair for most of the stoppage.
It was on the first point that she again fell to the court.
Li said she went "totally black" for two seconds after her head hit the court, and when a medical official asked her to follow her finger "I started laughing, thinking 'This is a tennis court, not like a hospital."
Li said the tournament doctor saw here after the match and checked out her head and neck.
"I should be OK,' Li said.
From the outset, the capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena was firmly behind Li, cheering loudly when she was introduced. Azarenka, meanwhile, had her errors applauded, and one spectator even mocked the loud hooting sound she makes when she hits a shot.
- no previous page
Popular in Sports
- Sergio Garcia apologizes to Tiger Woods for "fried chicken" remark
- Paralyzed Tulane player to spend holidays at home
- Home of Nuggets' Andersen searched, items seized
- Study: College athletes denied $6.2B over four years
- NFL's Top 100 Players of All-Time: Debate
- Watch: 7-foot-5 teen basketball player dominates
- "Egyptian Popeye" says 31-inch arms all-natural
- MLB Settles On Steroid Standards