Li Na is finally the champion in Melbourne Park. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, Australia — The third time was the charm. No. 4 Li Na overcame her nervy play to defeat No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (3), 6-0 and win the Australian Open women’s title. This is Li’s second major title after winning the French Open in 2011, when she became the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam. Her victory will push her to No. 3 in the WTA rankings on Monday, just 11 points behind No. 2 Victoria Azarenka.
Li survived her own scratchy play in the first set, in which she hit 19 unforced errors off her forehand side, and pocketed the first set tiebreaker. After overcoming a bout of early nerves, Cibulkova played well enough to keep Li uncomfortable, but was ultimately let down by her serve. The Slovakian, the first Grand Slam finalist from her country, hit seven double-faults at seemingly the most inopportune times of the match. Once Li won the first set, she relaxed and played her best tennis of the match. After an hour and 37 minutes, Li finally got her well-earned trophy.
“Before [I came] to the court I was tell myself, Don’t think about it,” Li said after the match, trying to explain her nerves. “Just play your game. Don’t think about the final. But the situation, you cannot [think] this is [a] normal match. Final is the final. Beginning was little bit tough. But I think I start when the tiebreak start. I was thinking about, Okay, now you have to go, otherwise it’s very tough for you.”
“She was the one who was dictating the game,” Cibulkova said. “Today I can only regret that my serve was not really there ‑ maybe because I felt not a little nervous, but my serve wasn’t working, you know. Then she could push me from the first balls, and I was under pressure all the times. Sometimes I catch myself running one meter behind the baseline. That’s not how I play.”
Game-by-game analysis of Li’s major triumph below: