In a dramatic and scrappy final that had it all – twisted ankles, bumps on the head, preceding controversy, a crowd favorite player and interrupting fireworks – Victoria Azarenka prevailed 4-6 6-4 6-3 against Li Na on Rod Laver Arena and won her second Grand Slam title, extending her streak in January matches to 21-0.
Li opened the meeting with a double fault and allowed to be broken right away, but Azarenka soon found herself 5-2 down and even though she approached her opponent to be just one game down, 5-4, and saved three set points, the first section of the match ended just as it began, with a double fault, this time by the top-seeded Azarenka.
The second set started with Azarenka’s 3-0 momentum and just as Li got a break back she went over on her left ankle and started hopping, clearly hardly putting weight on her foot. There was a medical timeout to tape the ankle up and as the match resumed Li hung in there and leveled to 4-4, before losing the set 6-4.
In the decider, Li had taken a 2-1 lead before the annual Australia Day fireworks delayed play for nine minutes and when play resumed Li right away rolled the ankle again and even hit her head on the court when she fell. Another medical timeout was needed to make sure everything was fine. Azarenka then leveled to 2-2 and earned a decisive break in the fifth game which she confirmed with a 4-2 hold to seal the title soon.
En route to the big trophy Azarenka defeated Monica Niculescu 6-1 6-4, Eleni Daniilidou 6-1 6-0, Jamie Hampton 6-4 4-6 6-2, Elena Vesnina 6-1 6-1, Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5 6-1, seed No.29 Sloane Stephens 6-1 6-4 and finally sixth seed Li Na. Notice that there were no Top 5 opponents on Azarenka’s way, actually, before the final her highest-ranked opponent was not even in the Top 20. It’s not criticism, I’m just mentioning that the path was paved favorably for her. Li had to battle world No.2 Maria Sharapova and world No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the championships match.
The victory ensured that Victoria Azarenka won’t be giving away her No.1 ranking to Serena Williams, who will now move from No.3 to No.2, overtaking Maria Sharapova. Li will rise from No.6 to No.5. (photo: © Neal Trousdale)