Melbourne - China's Li Na has stormed to her second Grand Slam title on Saturday,
battling past underdog Dominika Cibulkova to win the Australian Open and
give another huge boost to Asian tennis.
The 31-year-old fourth
seed's 7-6 (7/3), 6-0 win crowned her the champion on her third attempt
after losing the 2011 and 2013 finals, adding to the French Open title
she won three years ago.
In doing so, she became the oldest winner
of the women's title, surpassing Margaret Court who was 30 when she
became champion in 1973.
The Chinese star also joins an exclusive
list of just seven other players to win a Grand Slam at 30-plus, with
her name now in the history books alongside greats such as Martina
Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Serena Williams.
finally got here," she said after Evert awarded her the trophy, as she
praised her husband Jiang Shan and coach Carlos Rodriguez.
"Thanks Carlos. He always believed that I could do well."
win pushes her one place higher in the world rankings to three, just 11
points adrift of Victoria Azarenka in second behind Serena Williams.
was a gutsy effort by the Chinese star, who overcame the pressure of
having lost twice before while bearing the weight of expectation from
her homeland of 1.3 billion people.
Li's 2011 French Open victory,
the first Grand Slam win by an Asian player, dramatically raised the
profile of tennis in China and she has become the figurehead for a push
into Asia by women's tennis.
While the diminutive Cibulkova,
nicknamed the "pocket rocket" has been in the best form of her life, Li
was the favourite and used her experience to take out the Slovak after a
tight first set lasting 70 minutes.
"This has been a fantastic
two weeks of my life and I think I'm going to cry," said a tearful
Cibulkova, 24, the first person from her country to make a Grand Slam
Li got off to the best possible start, going 1-0 up on the
Cibulkova serve when the Slovak gifted her the game with a double-fault
on a second break point.
The Chinese star comfortably, with the
24-year-old Slovak struggling to produce any decisive returns as her
shots repeatedly failed to find their mark.
But she crucially came
through the third game, fighting off two break points, one with a
lovely passing shot, to stay in touch at 1-2.
Li held in the next as she dictated the rallies, but her first serve was becoming a serious problem.
three service games she had only got 13 percent of first serves in and
was seen looking at her husband in the crowd while pointing to her
This opened door for Cibulkova, with two Li
double-faults allowing her to break back for 3-3. A decisive service
game then put the Slovak in front for the first time as the momentum
began swinging in her favour.
But Li soon ironed out her problems
and it went with serve till 5-5 when she pounced, stroking a sumptuous
cross-court backhand for break point. A Cibulkova backhand into the net
put Li 6-5 up and serving for the set.
But Li was unable to ram
home the advantage with the Slovak breaking back to force a tiebreak, in
which Li finally prevailed with some scintillating winners.
kept up the pressure, holding serve in the second set then breaking
Cibulkova, who pushed a forehand wide, to take a firm grip on the final.
Li raced to a 3-0 lead then broke again as Cibulkova ran out of steam.
won on the Cibulkova serve when the Slovak sent a forehand long,
raising her arms in celebration before climbing into the stands to greet
husband Jiang and coach Rodriguez.
The victory helps Li make up
for the misery of losing the final twice before when she was a set up
against both Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Victoria Azarenka last year.