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The best photos from the Australian Open women’s final

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Li-Na-12

Li Na became the first Asian player to win the Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Li Na finally made good on her quest to win her favorite Slam. The No. 4 defeated Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (3), 6-0 to win the Australian Open and notch her second Slam title, all at the ripe old age of 31. Her experience of having fallen short in the final in two of the last three years paid off, as she was able to withstand her own bout of nerves in the first set to eventually roll to the title. She will ascend to No. 3 when the new WTA rankings come out on Monday, just 11 points behind No. 2 Victoria Azarenka.

You would be hard-pressed to find a more likable champion than Li and this win was well-earned, a reflection of her maturity and belief in herself.

Here are some of our favorite photos from the women’s final:

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  • Published On Jan 25, 2014
  • Stanislas Wawrinka must reverse history vs. Rafael Nadal in title match

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    Stanislas Wawrinka

    Stanislas Wawrinka will hope his backhand can be effective against Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    MELBOURNE, Australia — “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” That’s the quote inscribed on No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka’s forearm, and it will be his motto going into his first Slam final, where he will take on No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final on Sunday. Wawrinka has never won a set off Nadal, losing 26 straight sets in 12 matches. Then again, he hadn’t beaten Novak Djokovic in 14 straight matches and finally got the best of him in the quarterfinals here.

    “I have played him so many times, lost so many times, but I’m going to try again,” Wawrinka said. “I know what I have to do. I know that I have to play aggressive, serve really well, and try to always push him.”

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  • Published On Jan 25, 2014
  • Highlights from Li Na’s victory in the Australian Open finals

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    Dominika Cibulkova and Li Na pose during the Australian Open trophy presentation. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Dominika Cibulkova and Li Na pose during the Australian Open trophy presentation. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Li Na has built her career on being a groundbreaking Asian tennis player, and her resume will continue to grow after she became the first Asian to win the Australian Open, defeating Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (3), 6-0 in the final on Saturday.

    It was a nervy contest between Li, who was in her third Australian Open final in four years, and Cibulkova, who was playing her first Grand Slam final of her young career. Li pushed her nerves aside just in time to take the first set tiebreaker, and then rolled through the second set, winning in an hour and 37 minutes.

    Highlights and reactions to Li’s win below:

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  • Published On Jan 25, 2014
  • Video: Li Na wins the Australian Open, gives funniest victory speech of all time

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    Li Na certainly produced some laughs while giving her speech after winning the Australian Open. (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

    Li Na certainly produced some laughs while giving her speech after winning the Australian Open. (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Li Na may have put in a champion’s effort to win her second Slam title after defeating Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (3), 6-0 in the Australian Open final, but she saved her best performance for after the match. Li, already a crowd favorite for her famous post-match interviews, hit it out of the park in her victory speech.

    Thanking her team, she pointed her guns first at her agent, Max Eisenbud, who also counts Maria Sharapova, Laura Robson, and Madison Keys as his clients.

    “Max. Agent. Make me rich. Thanks a lot.”

    She then unleashed her best bit on her husband Dennis, who has been with her through it all, smiling broadly even when she’s busy making him the butt of her jokes.

    “My husband, even famous in China,” Li said. “Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You’re a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me.”

    Watch the whole speech here:

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  • Published On Jan 25, 2014
  • Li Na takes control against Dominika Cibulkova to win first Aussie Open title

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    Li Na is finally the champion in Melbourne Park. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    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:

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  • Published On Jan 25, 2014
  • Federer-Nadal reaction around the Web

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    Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

    Roger Federer (left) was no match for Rafael Nadal on Friday. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    Here’s a sampling of the media reaction to Rafael Nadal’s 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 victory over Roger Federer in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Friday:

    Steve Tignor, Tennis.com: It was apparent from the start, in case we had forgotten, that Rafael Nadal is not Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Nor is he Andy Murray. In the first set, the forays to the net that worked for Federer against those two weren’t working anymore. By the middle of the second set, Federer was struggling to get to the net at all. The player who had come in looking to take back the forecourt was stuck behind the baseline retrieving Nadal’s diving and hooking sidespin, exactly where he didn’t want to be.

    Jon Wertheim, SI.com: [W]hat Nadal plays on the court is not always tennis. It’s akin to some kind of tribal dialect. Yes, it bears a resemblance to the court game involving a racket, balls and a 78-by-27-foot grid of boxes. But it is wildly different from any other player’s game — past, present and, we can safely say, future.

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  • Published On Jan 24, 2014
  • Photos: Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer in Australian Open semifinals

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    It's quite cool outside in Melbourne, but of course Rafael Nadal is dripping sweat. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    Rafael Nadal puts in the effort to beat Roger Federer. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal turned a marquee match into a routine victory on Friday, defeating Roger Federer 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

    Inconveniently for Federer, it was the best match of the tournament from the top seed, who silenced doubts about the status of his blistered hand and his uneven form through the first five rounds to rout his longtime rival in two hours and 24 minutes.

    “I don’t expect him to be worse off just because of a blister or worse off because he’s having an up-and-down sort of performance at this event,” Federer said after the loss. “When he usually comes in against me, he always plays solid, if not great. So I think it was one of those nights again, which I knew was going to be tough.”

    Nadal moved to 23-10 lifetime against Federer and scored his sixth consecutive victory in Grand Slam meetings. He’ll face Federer’s Swiss countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in Sunday’s final.

    Here are some of our favorite photos from Friday’s semifinal:

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  • Published On Jan 24, 2014
  • Australian Open women’s final preview: Li Na vs. Dominika Cibulkova

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    Dominika Cibulkova will be the highest-ranked player that Li Na has faced this tournament. (Getty Images)

    No. 24 Dominika Cibulkova (right) will be Li Na’s highest-ranked opponent in the Australian Open. (Getty Images)

    MELBOURNE, Australia — No. 4 Li Na will seek her second major title on Saturday when she faces a first-time Grand Slam finalist, 20th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, in the Australia Open final.

    The path looks paved for Li, 31, to finally win the title in Melbourne, after losing the final in 2011 and ’13. She nearly lost in the third round when No. 26 Lucie Safarova sent a potential winner on match point “five centimeters” long. But a slew of upsets made her draw much easier; not only did Li’s projected semifinal opponent, No. 1 Serena Williams, lose in the fourth round, but other potentially tricky opponents also went down, including No. 6 Petra Kvitova, No. 9 Angelique Kerber, No. 14 Ana Ivanovic and No. 15 Sabine Lisicki.

    In fact, the 24th-ranked Cibulkova will be Li’s first top-25 opponent this tournament. That’s a far cry from having to play Kim Clijsters in the 2011 final or having to beat Maria Sharapova and then face Victoria Azarenka in last year’s final. And yet, even in both those matches, she came within a set of winning.

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  • Published On Jan 24, 2014
  • Highlights from Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer Australian Open semifinal

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    Another episode in the Roger Federer - Rafael Nadal rivalry has come to a close. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Another episode in the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry has come to a close. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 in the Australian Open semifinals on Friday, extending his head-to-head lead over his longtime rival to 23-10. Nadal will face No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka in Sunday’s final with a shot to become the first man in the Open Era to win all four Slams at least twice.

    Here are highlights, statistics, reaction and more from Nadal’s victory:

    Highlights

    Match point:


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  • Published On Jan 24, 2014
  • Rafael Nadal blows past Roger Federer to advance to Australian Open final

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    Rafael Nadal

    Rafael Nadal improved to 23-10 against Roger Federer. (Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images)

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Thirty-third verse, same as the first.

    No. 1 Rafael Nadal’s quest to become the third player to win all four Grand Slam tournaments at least twice continues after he withstood an early challenge from No. 6 Roger Federer and rolled 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Friday. The 13-time major champion on Sunday will face first-time Slam finalist Stanislas Wawrinka, who will replace Federer as the Swiss No. 1 next week.

    In the 33rd meeting between the two best players over the last 10 years, Nadal pulled out a 59-minute first set and rolled from there to improve to 3-0 against Federer at the Australian Open.  As Rod Laver and Pete Sampras sat in the crowd, Nadal showed once again why his now 23-10 record against Federer is no fluke.

    Federer, contesting his 11th consecutive Australian Open semifinal, had been riding a wave of confidence after big wins over No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round and No. 4 Andy Murray in the quarterfinals. Armed with a new racket and new coach Stefan Edberg, the whispers around Melbourne Park were that Federer was primed to snap his four-match losing streak to Nadal and beat his rival at a Slam for the first time since 2007.

    Nadal snuffed out that belief quickly. Federer didn’t earn a break point until the third set and his hyper-aggressive start to the match subsided quickly in the face of Nadal’s impenetrable defense.

    Here is game-by-game analysis of how Nadal weathered the early pressure to run away with another win over Federer:

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  • Published On Jan 24, 2014


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