The Belarusian tennis star Victoria Azarenka has retained her Australian Open title, coming from behind to defeat China’s Li Na. The victory means the 23-year-old has retained the world No. 1 ranking.
Azarenka won the Australian Open for the second straight year in dramatic fashion, helped in part by some bad luck for her opponent.
It didn't start out well for Azarenka, with Li breaking her serve four times to take the first set 6-4.
The Belarusian was able to get back into the game though, breaking Li's serve three times, while dropping her own just twice to win the second set 6-4.
It was in that set that Li - the crowd favorite at the Rod Laver arena - suffered the first of two ankle injuries, falling in the fifth game and needing time out for treatment.
And it was not to be an isolated event. In a third set interrupted by a break for Australia Day fireworks, Li fell over again - this time banging her head. The 30 year-old Chinese player was able to put pressure on her opponent by winning five straight points, but Azarenka pulled it back and began to produce some of her best serves to take the third, and the match, 6-3.
"It's been a real long two weeks," said Azarenka. "I will always keep very special memories of this court. It will be in my heart forever."
Had Azarenka not won, she would have lost her No. 1 spot to Serena Williams, who will now rise to No. 2 - above Maria Sharapova - when new rankings are released on Monday. Williams herself reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.
Sunday's men's final sees Britain's Andy Murray take on Serb Novak Djokovic.
rc/hc (dpa, AP, AFP)