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Azarenka retains Australian Open crown against Li

In a dramatic and scrappy final that had it all – twisted ankles, bumps on the head, preceding controversy, a crowd favorite player and interrupting fireworksVictoria 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)

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15 thoughts on “Azarenka retains Australian Open crown against Li

  1. Gregoire Gentil

    Let me recap:

    – Vika withdrew to avoid Williams' correction two weeks ago and her excuse was a wrong pedicure.
    – she didn't have to meet Radwanska, Sharapova, Williams in Melbourne. Until the final, the highest rank of all her opponents was 19.
    – She faked a MTO in the semi-final to avoid loosing. She was surprised of reactions when she admitted in post-match interview.
    – Her final opponent twisted her ankle twice.

    She just hired a PR specialist to smooth her image. Well, good luck to the guy!

  2. Tulp

    A great sum-up of the No.1 we have to live with for the time being, Gregoire.
    (Expect, though, some possible reactions of people who prefer their infantile wishful-thinking-world to the one we actually live in.)

  3. Lily

    Azarenka defeated Radwanska, Clijsters, Sharapova and won the AO championship last year.
    She also had great performance last year including US open final.
    There is no doubt that she is a real champion.
    She had proven her herself.

  4. Marine

    Well, this was a pyrrhic victory in my opinion. Azarenka will not hide her true colours now even with a help of the best PR in the world. I think that she is a very bad representative for WTA and tennis as such.

  5. Shif

    Totally agree with Gregoire. As Victoria Azarenka said herself in the post-victory interview – she needs to grow as a player and as a person.
    I hope she'll think twice before taking medical time outs in the future because the crowd will definitely look twice every time to see if there's a real injury!

  6. Omair

    I see a lot of hate against Azarenka. The fall of Li, twice in the final did scare me a lot. I hope that she is fine and has not injured herself.
    I was against Azarenka too, thought she had cheated and you know all that stuff. But today when I was on my way back after a weekend at home, I thought about it, and it just occurred to me that she is a human as well, not an angel, she is bound to make errors, since to err is human. Yes, she did make mistake but let us just move on. I really hoped for Li to win the title.

    As for Azarenka, not facing any top 10 opponent before the final, it was not her fault that Errani, Wozniacki, Serena and Kvitova faulted before meeting her. She did her job by reaching there but others could not keep up, so….

  7. Gregoire Gentil

    @Omair, I agree that we are all humans! ;-) But when you start to pile up so many bad situations over and over, it starts to bother. And I didn't mention that she said "f…ing bitch" to Sharapova (http://thedoublebagel.com/?p=4272) and to a referee (I can't find the reference but I do remember). And I didn't talk either about her coach who said after the semi-final that the press should give her a break and Vika is a great champion! sic…

  8. sabey

    I am not defending Vika's behavior but I have to say it took guts and heart to pull out a victory following the controversy of the day before and the reaction of the crowd. For that, she has my grudging respect.

  9. Omair

    @Sabey
    I will not say that it took guts to win! It took a turned ankle from Li and a bumped head on to the court along-with another twisted ankle to win the title

  10. Zech

    Marija,

    I just read this article and it really made me question a lot of the criticisms of Azarenka.

    http://anygivensurface.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/unsportsmanlike-or-unladylike-azarenka-and-the-media/

    I happen to like Vika a lot and found her semi final stunt not particularly pleasing and bad sportsmanship, but I also find that bad sportsmanship happens all the time in sport, its just glossed over with players people find more agreeable. A lot of people didn't like Vika before, and this just fueled the fire. I find Azarenka to be a great example for women's tennis, in that she isn't perfect, but she owns who she is. "Shameful", “unsportsmanlike”, etc are value judgments at worst, claims at best–neither are facts. Just food for thought.

  11. Tulp

    Zech, I just consumed the offered "food for thought" and, while trying to digest it, it just made me sick to my brains – as well as your finding "Azarenka to be a great example for women's tennis" (!). Now, instead of elaborating the obvious reasons why, I'll just quote the last comment so far (by a certain Boohoo) under the article you've given the link to:
    "Azarenka had established a reputation based on her own actions which go back to long before the Australian Open and was judged on her actions that day and was not given the benefit of the doubt because she has not earned it."
    There, surely "she owns who she is", I'd say. And I'll add: to disown who she thus far is, she'll have to show something different, on-court, and not try to fool people by pathetic "explanations" of "misunderstandings", off-court. Meanwhile, God spare women's tennis such "a great example"!

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