15 Jan 2011

Chinese star emerges as genuine Aussie Open threat

7:20 am on 15 January 2011

Chinese trailblazer Li Na has emerged as a serious Australian Open threat after bursting Belgian Kim Clijsters's bubble in an extraordinary final at the Sydney Tennis International.

Li staged a remarkable recovery to sap Clijsters' confidence on the eve of the Open with a most improbable 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 victory over the three-time US Open champion on Friday night.

Clijsters had raced to a 5-love lead in 19 minutes, only to concede the opening set with a dramatic collapse and then completely unravel in the second set to hand Li the match and her fourth career title.

Li's unexpected 90-minute triumph continued her love affair with Australia.

The 28-year-old landed her second career title on the Gold Coast in 2008 and last year joined Zheng Jie as China's first-ever Australian Open semi-finalists.

Li was also her country's first-ever WTA tournament winner in Guangzhou in 2004, China's maiden grand slam quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2006 and their first player to crack the world's top 10 - following her 2010 Open heroics in Melbourne.