27 Jan 2013

Azarenka wins Australian Open final

6:59 am on 27 January 2013

World tennis No.1 Victoria Azarenka has claimed back-to-back Australian Open women's singles titles.

The top seed came from a set down to beat China's Li Na, who needed two separate medical timeouts and was treated for possible concussion before finally succumbing 4-6 6-4 6-3 to the top seed after two hours and 40 suspense-filled minutes on Saturday night.

Li had hundreds of millions of Chinese hearts in mouths for the first time when she collapsed in a heap during the second set and hobbled off court.

She returned, though, six minutes later with her left ankle strapped and recovered from a service break down to draw level at 4-4 and close to within two games of taking the title.

Li looked for a second time like she may have to retire after falling heavily and hitting her head on the Melbourne Park centre court on the very first point after the resumption from a nine-minute break for the Australia Day fireworks.

It was Azarenka's second grand slam title, after beating Maria Sharapova in last year's Australian Open final, and meant the Belarussian retained the No.1 ranking, which would have gone to Serena Williams had Azarenka lost to Li.

It was not the most popular Open victory after the 23-year-old was roundly condemned for taking a controversial double medical timeout immediately after blowing five match points in her semi-final victory over American teenager Sloane Stephens.

While Li was afforded a rousing reception upon her entry to Rod Laver Arena, applause for Azarenka was subdued and at times the top seed was heckled by fans.

The Belarusian had the last laugh, though, collecting the winner's cheque for a record $3 million after seeing off Li in a tense rollercoaster ride lasting almost two-and-three-quarter hours.