Li Na tops Dominika Cibulkova to win Australian Open

9:12 AM, Jan 25, 2014   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

 


 


MELBOURNE, Australia - Eight is the most auspicious number in Chinese culture, but for Li Na three's a charm.

No. 4 seed Li captured her first Australian Open title - in her third Melbourne final - and second Grand Slam championship by beating No. 20 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night.

Li, the 2011 French Open winner, couldn't capitalize on early and late breaks in the first set but picked up her level in the tiebreaker and never looked back.

At the end, Li held up both thumbs, and then held back tears, as she left the court. She went immediately to the stands to shake hands with her coach Carlos Rodriguez.

"Finally I got her," Li said as she put a hand on the Daphne Akhurst trophy for the first time as Australian Open women's champion. "Last two times was very close."

Li then brought roars of laughter from the crowd in her post-match speech, as she usually does, thanking her agent and teasing her husband.

"Max agent, make me rich. Thanks a lot," Li said of Max Eisenbud.

To her husband, Shan Jiang, she said, "So thanks for him give up everything just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks, fix the racket. So thanks a lot, you are a nice guy."

Then, after pausing for the laughter: "Also you are so lucky, find me."

The first set lasted 70 minutes, including two exchanges of service breaks and some nervous moments for Li, who was struggling with her first serve.

"I think of course (I was) nervous, but also excited," she said. "I played a final here twice already, so I know the feeling."

Most of the damage was done from the 31-year-old Li's two-handed backhand against the 5-3 Cibulkova, who was competing in her first Grand Slam final.

"She's a great player, and a grand champion," Cibulkova said of Li.

Following her 2011 Roland Garros victory, Li buckled under the pressure. She didn't win more than two consecutive matches, going 7-9 the rest of the season.

Rodriguez, who began working with Li after the 2012 Wimbledon, said he wasn't sure if this time she would manage the pressure better.

He said it would depend on how she processed, or "alchemized," the experience.

"(Is it) going to be huge pressure impossible to handle or (is she) going to be free and really go like in the second set and play her game?" said Rodriguez, who coached Justine Henin to seven major crowns.

"I hope that the work that has been done before and after (will) allow her to at least see things more clear," he said.

Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, agrees with Rodriguez.

"If (Rodriguez) can get her to a place where she is fearless and bold and strong like she played that second set, the tennis is there," she said.

Li's run to the title included just one player ranked in the top 25 - No. 24 Cibulkova.

Li, the first Grand Slam singles winner from Asia, will return to No. 3 in the rankings Monday - just 11 points behind No. 2 Victoria Azarenka.

In last year's final loss to Azarenka, Li stumbled badly twice, once nearly concussing herself on the hardcourt. Li also was the runner-up in 2011.

This time, there was no stumble. In fact, hardly a misstep at all.

The match ended a stunning run for Cibulkova, who had four wins against top 20 players in the tournament, including a fourth-round upset of third-seeded Maria Sharapova and a straight-sets semifinal trouncing of No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska.

"These were just fantastic two weeks of my life," she said, pausing to laugh and cry. "Hello to everybody in Slovakia. This means a lot for our country, and I'm happy I can be the one here for Slovakia."

Doubles final: Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Robert Lindstedt of Sweden, the No. 14 seeds, defeated Eric Butorac of the USA and Raven Klaasen of South Africa 6-3, 6-3 to win the men's doubles title.

You may also like... 

Weird Florida: A look back at some of the strangest stories of the year

Miracle Baby: Tampa toddler has 5-organ transplant

Broke Bad: Contest winner busted in synthetic drug ring

Here kitty, kitty: Lion escapes enclosure at Pasco sanctuary

Fake Cop: Man arrested 3 times for impersonating officer

Animal tragedy: Girl's miniature horse attacked by dogs

#ShortYellows: Florida quietly shortened yellow lights

Kittens shot: Officer shoots kittens in front of children

Popular photo galleries:

Faces of Meth: Devastating before and after photos of meth abusers

Trayvon Martin Shooting: Trayvon Martin crime scene photos and George Zimmerman injury photos 

Hooters Winners: Winners of the 2013 Hooters swimsuit pageant

Rejected: Funny Florida license plates rejected by the DMV***warning graphic***

Deadly sinkhole: Home collapses, man dies in giant sinkhole

Popular Databases:

Florida Sex Offenders: Look up sex offenders in any Florida neighborhood here

Restaurant Inspections: Look up inspection reports for any Florida restaurant here




Most Watched Videos