Australian Open women's final: Live Report
- Published: 26/01/2013 at 03:45 PM
- Online news:
1144 GMT: Azarenka reaches out to a crowd that has not always been on her side. She says as she clinches the winner's trophy: "Thank you very much for all your support. I'll always keep a very special memory of this court."
Victoria Azarenka sheds a tear after beating China's Li Na in the final of the Australian Open in Melbourne on January 26, 2013.
1140 GMT: "I know I am not young, but I have to say that I am very much looking forward to next year," says Li, 30.
1135 GMT: Li may be the runner-up for a second time in Melbourne, but she will earn the plaudits and the admirers for her display, during which she won the first set, before going over on her ankle. She had treatment, but went down a second time, this time hitting her head on the court. She appeared close to tears.
1131 GMT: The stats say it all. Azarenka made 28 unforced errors over the three sets, compared with 57 for the sixth seed Li, who sheds a tear from her chair at courtside at Rod Laver Arena. A cheer goes up from the crowd as television cameras home in on an upset-looking Li.
1128 GMT: World number one Victoria Azarenka from Belarus retains her Australian Open title and will remain top of the women's rankings. There are tears of joy for the strapping 23-year-old.
1125 GMT: AZARENKA WINS AUSTRALIAN OPEN 4-6 6-4 6-3.
LI* 6-4 4-6 3-6 AZARENKA: Li serving to stay in the match. She lets off a wonderful pass for 30-15, but Azarenka responds with one of her own. It's tit-for-tat, as Li fires off a booming forehand, before following up with a backhand that nestles into the net for deuce, then she goes long again. AZARENKA WINS AUSTRALIAN OPEN.
LI 6-4 4-6 3-5 AZARENKA*: Li needs something big, and knows she has lost the mobility her game requires, so she is trying to hit the winners now. Does it work? She has Azarenka at 30-30 on the top seed's serve, then has break point when Azarenka makes a mess of an easy return. But Azarenka digs in for advantage, before another Li error. AZARENKA HOLDS.
LI* 6-4 4-6 3-4 AZARENKA: LI HOLDS. But only just. And she will need to break Azarenka if she is to salvage the match. Having required medical treatment twice in this contest, the second time smashing her head on the ground, victory for the Chinese here will go down in sporting history.
LI 6-4 4-6 2-4 AZARENKA*: It is all the Belarusian now. She is on the rampage and scents victory over the ailing Chinese. AZARENKA HOLDS.
LI* 6-4 4-6 2-3 AZARENKA: AZARENKA BREAKS as Li makes yet another unforced error. That is 13 in the third set alone for Li.
LI 6-4 4-6 2-2 AZARENKA*: Li appears to be moving around well enough. Azarenka serves, 2-1 down in the final set. They duel at 30-30, before Li scraps for a break point, right under Azarenka's nose. But t
he reigning champ doggedly hangs on, inching up to advantage and then rounding the game off with a clever forehand. AZARENKA HOLDS.
1055 GMT: Another medical time-out for Li, but she looks set to soldier on. Appears the trouble this time was the head after she banged it, not the ankle. She looked close to tears, but the in a lovely moment, flashed a beaming smile as the crowd roared her back up off the court. And she is up and set to carry on. Huge cheers for the Chinese sixth seed.
1053 GMT: Gasps from the crowd as they watch replays of Li going over on that same ankle again. Play is immediately stopped because she appeared to hit her head on the court. The physios are with her, but she gingerly gets up and makes her way slowly back to her chair.
1051 GMT: Now that's over with, play resumes. Azarenka serves. BUT LI IS DOWN AGAIN.
1049 GMT: AFP's Asia sports editor Talek Harris says from Melbourne Park that this scheduled stoppage for fireworks will be 15 minutes. Azarenka has trotted off the court, while a pensive-looking Li sits courtside. Interesting to see what this break in play does in terms of the course of this final.
1045 GMT: Play is suspended for a firework display in Melbourne for Australia Day. The players were warned about this prior to the match.
LI* 6-4 4-6 2-1 AZARENKA: As the match approaches the two-hour mark, Li gets her serve going. She is 40-0 up, but shoots into the net, before finishing off the game with an ace. LI HOLDS.
LI 6-4 4-6 1-1 AZARENKA*: It's all the Belarusian now. She has taken nine of the last 10 points and Li cuts a sullen figure -- rare for the usually bright and bubbly Chinese, who is clearly favourite with the Melbourne crowd. The world number one Azarenka is up 40-30 as Li makes yet another unforced error. But then it is Azarenka who makes the error, not once but twice. And she gives up the game with a double-fault. LI BREAKS.
LI* 6-4 4-6 0-1 AZARENKA: Li serves at the beginning of the third and final set. But she makes a dreadful start, a wild forehand putting her down 0-30, before Azarenka hits into the net. Li gifts two break points with a wayward forehand, and the holder makes no mistake with a thundering forehand. AZARENKA BREAKS.
LI 6-4 4-6 AZARENKA*: Both players are making errors. Thirty-three now from Li, who is fighting to save the set. Azarenka goes 30-0 up on her own serve, then gets within set point after another Li error. AZARENKA WINS SECOND SET.
LI* 6-4 4-5 AZARENKA: If anything, Li seems to have been buoyed by that injury stoppage on her ankle, which is heavily strapped now. But her serve is giving her trouble, just like Azarenka, and the top seed takes advantage of two break points. AZARENKA BREAKS.
LI 6-4 4-4 AZARENKA*: There are catcalls from a packed house as the serving Azarenka swats away a loose ball in Li's direction. Azarenka goes 0-30 down, before volleying at the net for 15-30. A dropshot though goes horribly wrong, handing Li two break points. She squanders the first but then Azarenka goes long and her challenge fails. LI BREAKS.
LI* 6-4 3-4 AZARENKA: Azarenka has two break points. But she surrenders both of them, as Li hangs in there for deuce and then a glorious pass for advantage. Li claims the game with a flourish. LI HOLDS.
LI 6-4 2-4 AZARENKA*: AFP's Asia sports editor Talek Harris says from courtside at the Rod Laver that Li has no history of ankle problems, though she has had trouble with her knees. But amazingly, she goes up 40-0 on Azarenka's serve. Azarenka comes back with a crosscourt forehand, then gets lucky when the ball strikes the top of the net. Li surrenders three break points. AZARENKA HOLDS. Just.
LI* 6-4 2-3 AZARENKA: LI HOLDS, apparently showing no immediate problems with that ankle.
1004 GMT: Appears Li will carry on, but for how long? Replays appear to show Li turning her ankle when she tried a change of direction. She is having very heavy bandaging on that left ankle. She might continue, but it is hard to believe she will be too mobile now.
1000 GMT: This may be all over. Li is a set up and 1-3 down, but is having her left ankle looked at by a physio. Her shoe is off, while Azarenka munches on a banana. Medical timeout for Li.
LI* 6-4 1-3 AZARENKA: And now the match swings back in favour of the sixth seed Li. But then the Chinese takes a tumble and appears to twist her left knee. The trainer is on and Li looks in trouble.
LI 6-4 1-3 AZARENKA*: Great start to the second set for the defending champ. She has broken Li twice and now serves for a 4-0 lead. There is a marked difference in the applause for each player: a winner for Azarenka is greeted with muted but polite applause. But there is a roar when Li comes good. Can she make the most of that support? This time she can. LI BREAKS.
LI* 6-4 0-3 AZARENKA: The holder Azarenka has the impetus now. But Li keeps chasing her down. Azarenka goes 15-0 up on Li's serve, before the Chinese turns the tables. They go to 30-30, then Azarenka forces the error for break point and a 3-0 lead in the second set. AZARENKA BREAKS.
LI 6-4 0-2 AZARENKA*: Azarenka has not got her serve going at all so far, but shows signs of an improvement here. She is up 30-15, then the Chinese swipes a forehand for 30-30. A terrific rally brings up deuce, then Azarenka makes yet another double-fault to give Li advantage. But the Belarusian HOLDS SERVE after a Li challenge fails.
LI* 6-4 0-1 AZARENKA: Azarenka might be the world number one, holder and favourite, but she looks troubled here. She lashes out at 40-30 on Li's serve, but the sixth seed Li goes wide on a crosscourt forehand. AZARENKA BREAKS after a double-handed backhand from Li sails wide.
LI 6-4 AZARENKA*: Who'd be a betting man? Li was serving for the set at 5-3, then the top seed breaks. And suddenly Azarenka looks the more composed and has Li scampering all over the blue plexicushion court. Li fluffs a forehand for 30-30, then hits a lovely forehand for set point. But Azarenka pegs her back for deuce, then hits a glorious pass for advantage. After some old-fashioned back and forth at deuce, Li finally makes it count at the fourth set point. LI WINS FIRST SET after Azarenka double-fault.
LI* 5-4 AZARENKA: Now it is Li who is in trouble. Azarenka takes three break points on the Li serve, before Li gets it back to 15-40. Li hits into the net to give Azarenka the game and the impetus. AZARENKA BREAKS.
LI 5-3 AZARENKA*: Harris points out that prior to this game, Azarenka had won only four points on her serve. Four. She gets off to a better start in the eighth game, before Li pegs her back to 30-30. Li then hits a forehand long for 40-30. AZARENKA HOLDS. For the first time in the match.
LI* 5-2 AZARENKA: Li is rampant here. She wins her service game to love, rounding the game off with a perfect forehand. Azarenka looks bewildered. LI HOLDS.
LI 4-2 AZARENKA*: Azarenka's serve is all over the place. She is down 0-40, but Li shoots long. But the Chinese makes it count at 15-40 with a lovely forehand down the line. LI BREAKS. That is five breaks of serve now.
Harris says that Azarenka took a swipe at a loose ball towards Li's end after the Belarusian was broken, and then holds up her hand to apologise. That's not going to endear her to the crowds, says Harris. There is no doubt who they want to win. And it is not the top seed.
LI* 3-2 AZARENKA: AFP Asia sports editor Talek Harris says from Melbourne Park that Azarenka's beau Redfoo, the singer/rapper, is in the house. Can't miss him with that hair. He sees the world number one and holder at 30-30, before Li fires an ace for game point. But she wastes it with a wild swing. They toy at deuce, before Li makes an error with a backhand, then with a forehand. AZARENKA BREAKS.
LI 3-1 AZARENKA*: Azarenka starts her service game with a double-fault, then goes down 15-30 when her backhand flies into the net. Li goes up to two break points with a crisp forehand that leaves Azarenka flat-footed. LI BREAKS.
LI* 2-1 AZARENKA: Both players look nervous, perhaps explains all the errors. Li serves at 30-30,
then fires a forehand that Azarenka cannot reach to go up 40-30. Li is having trouble with her first serve. The game goes to deuce, Azarenka goes long to give Li advantage. LI HOLDS.
LI 1-1 AZARENKA*: Wobbles on her serve for the holder as well. They go to 30-30, before Li goes to break point. Errors aplenty so far. Azarenka fires a return into the next. LI BREAKS.
LI* 0-1 AZARENKA: Terrible start for the serving Li as she begins with a double fault. The popular Chinese recovers for the next two points, before Azarenka draws level for 30-30, then goes up for break point. AZARENKA BREAKS.(*denotes server)
0845 GMT: Here we go then. Li serves first.
0842 GMT: The players are out warming up. Recent history is very much in favour of the world number one Azarenka -- she has won all four matches between the pair over the past 15 months. The umpire gives the two-minute warning.
0837 GMT: Both players come out to warm applause. There is no doubt though who the crowd will want to win. Azarenka took a controversial timeout in her semi against Sloane Stephens and Azarenka held a special briefing yesterday for the Australian media to explain herself. But she still got hammered in today's Australian papers, Harris says. The grunting is not to everyone's taste either.
0833 GMT: The players are in the tunnel waiting to come out. Azarenka has her white hoodie up, headphones planted in ears. Li is a few paces in front. She will walk out onto Rod Laver Arena first.
0829 GMT: AFP's Asia sports editor Talek Harris says from Melbourne that Azarenka was spotted arriving in a black hoodie, looking very serious. He says that it's cool and breezy at Melbourne Park, it's jackets and coffee rather than the usual singlets and beer. Australia Day today so plenty of Australian flags and quite a few Chinese fans with their faces painted. Not too many Belarusians around, says Harris.
WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT on the women's final at the Australian Open, where the holder and world number one Victoria Azarenka plays Li Na, the sixth seed.
China's Li, 30, has been in inspired form over the past fortnight, running through four seeds including Russia's four-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova on the way to her second Melbourne final.
In 2011, the Wuhan native made history on Rod Laver Arena as Asia's first Grand Slam finallist, and later that year she went one step further to become the continent's first and major singles champion at the French Open.
The Belarusian Azarenka, 23, is the hot favourite. She is defending her only Grand Slam title to date, and will extend her nearly year-long stay at the top ranking with victory over Li.
Azarenka has been an unmissable presence in Melbourne, partly because of her trademark shriek when she hits the ball and also because she has been accompanied by colourful LMFAO frontman Redfoo.
But she courted controversy in her semi-final against teenager Sloane Stephens when she blew five match points and immediately went off for a medical timeout. When she returned, she broke Stephens to win the match.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency