Li Na (pictured) stormed to her second Grand Slam title on Saturday, battling past Dominika Cibulkova to become the oldest woman ever to win an Australian Open singles title.
The 31-year-old fourth seed from China won 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 in a final that lasted 70 minutes.
Cibulkova, the 20th seed, was making her first appearance in a Grand Slam final. She started nervously, gifted the first game to Li with a double fault and struggled to produce any decisive returns in the second game. But the Slovak came through the third game, fighting off two break points, one with a lovely passing shot to stay in touch at 1-2.
Li meanwhile, began to struggle with her first serve. This opened door for Cibulkova. Two Li double-faults allowed the Slovak to break back for 3-3.
Li broke again to lead 6-5. Cibulkova broke back to force a tiebreak, in which Li finally prevailed after producing some scintillating winners.
Cibulkova was the first Slovak to reach a Grand Slam final since her country separated from Czechoslovakia. Li won the French Open three years ago, but she had lost twice before in the final in Melbourne. She also bore the weight of expectation from her homeland of 1.3 billion people.
In her two Australian Open final losses in 2011 and 2013, Li won the first set but went down in three sets. This time, she had no such trouble going on a roll to win the last six games.
In doing so, she became the oldest winner of the women's title, surpassing Margaret Court who was 30 when she became champion in 1973. She is one of seven women to win a Grand Slam at 30-plus. The other champions with that honour are Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Serena Williams, Anne Jones and Virginia Wade.
The victory lifts Li one place in the world rankings to three, just behind Victoria Azarenka in second. Serena Williams is number one.
Despite her defeat, Cibulkova, who has impressed at Melbourne with her relentless energy and eye-catching shots, will move up to 13 when the new world rankings are released on Monday.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-01-25