Photo: Paul ZimmerVictoria Azarenka (BLR)
Victoria Azarenka fended off a resilient challenge from Li Na to win her second straight Australian Open title after defeating the world No. 6 46 64 63 in two hours and 40 minutes in a dramatic women’s final on Saturday night.
The Chinese No. 1 took the first set and secured an early break in the second only for two heavy falls, including one immediately after a 10-minute break in play for Australia Day fireworks, to interrupt her stride.
The 30-year-old needed heavy strapping on her ankle after the first tumble but fell heavily on the second, striking her head.
“For two seconds I couldn’t really see anything. It was totally black,” admitted Li. “So when the physio came, she was like, ‘focus on my finger.’ I started laughing. I was thinking. This is a tennis court, not like hospital.”
Despite enjoying the early momentum, Li refused to entertain the thought that she might have won had she not fallen over.
“I think today in like important games she was play better than me, so that's why she can win the title,” said Li. “Maybe if I’m not falling down, it’s another story. You never know. But the truth [is], I was falling down so nothing can change.”
Azarenka, meanwhile, was thrilled to win her second Grand Slam title.
“I feel really happy right now,” beamed the Belarusian. “It’s been a long match. It’s been a tough match. Li Na was absolutely playing great tennis. Unfortunate things happened to her, you know, but that’s sport.”
Azarenka, who would have surrendered the No. 1 ranking had she lost, denied that she felt under pressure despite her slow start against the 2011 French Open champion.
“I never thought about the No. 1 ranking,” insisted the Belarusian. “The pressure was there, but I like the pressure, you know. It's interesting. It's a very interesting thing. It pushes you to be better.“
After the women’s final, Bob and Mike Bryan achieved a major milestone of their own, defeating first-time finalists Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling 63 64 to win a record 13th Grand Slam doubles title. With their sixth Australian Open crown, the duo surpassed John Newcombe and Tony Roche on 12 Grand Slam triumphs to become the most successful doubles team of all time.
“Obviously, it feels real good to have that record,” said Mike. “To be a part of history is pretty special. We weren't thinking about it much out there, but now that we have it, it's going to be fun to look back on our career and say we have the most Grand Slams.
“It's a big record, so we're pretty excited about it.”