Victoria Azarenka is the 2013 Australian Open Women’s Singles Champion, having successfully defended the title she won last year with a three sets 4-6 6-4 6-3 win over Li Na in today’s final.
Coming on court to a packed Rod Laver Arena, Azarenka received some applause, but it was clearly the Chinese star who was the crowd favourite – both because the Australian Open is the Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific region and because the Melbourne spectators always support the underdog. Considering Li’s demolition of Maria Sharapova for the loss of only four games in the semis; and Azarenka’s well documented struggle against Sloane Stephens in her semi, Li should never have been the less fancied of the two players, but she was the 6th seed playing the top seed who had won all four of their last matches.
The first set began with each player breaking the other and, in total, there were seven breaks of serve before Li took the first set 6-4 on an Azarenka double fault on set point. The second set was as dramatic as a set of tennis could be. Azarenka took a 3-0 lead before Li got on the scoreboard in the 4th game, but then she twisted her ankle and needed a medical time out. Many thought she could not continue, but she did and seemed to be fine, but Azarenka took the set 6-4 to force the decider.
There was more drama at the beginning of the third set, when there was a ten minute break for the Australia Day fireworks display, after which the players resumed the match and, with Li at 30-30, she again went over on the same injured ankle, but this time she also hit her head on the court. After another medical time out, she came back on court, but Azarenka broke her in the next game for a lead she would not relinquish, to take the set 6-3 and lift the trophy after a match of some outstanding tennis from both players – the recipe for a memorable final.