Australian Open: Victoria Azarenka beats Li Na in three sets to retain title
Last Updated: 26/01/13 2:52pm
Victoria Azarenka beat Li Na in three sets to retain her Australian Open crown in Melbourne.
The Belarusian came from a set down in a topsy-turvy final to record a 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory which also sees her retain the world No 1 ranking.
Twice the Chinese contender had to call for the trainer - the first time after going over on her ankle midway through the second set and again after tumbling in the first point after play resumed following a third-set stoppage for a firework display to celebrate Australia Day.
Roared on by a partisan crowd, she battled on bravely but, despite her best efforts, Li was unable to prevent Azarenka from claiming the trophy and holding off Serena Williams at the rankings summit.
On a cool night, the final took some time to heat up with both players struggling with nerves. They exchanged early breaks before Li held and then broke again for 3-1.
Azarenka, whose controversial semi-final win over Sloane Stephens meant she had to face a smattering of boos when she made her way on to Rod Laver Arena, hit back after Li missed a routine drive volley on game point.
But she was still struggling on serve and the Chinese, who won the 2011 French Open, took advantage again and clinched an error-strewn opening set 6-4 with her backhand proving her most potent weapon.
Although she dropped the opener, there were signs that Azarenka was starting to find her range and she swiftly motored into a 3-0 lead in the second set.
Li appeared in serious danger of having to retire when she went over on her left ankle during the fourth point of the fifth game - the trainer dashing straight on to court before administering seven minutes of treatment.
When she returned, having had the joint heavily strapped, there appeared no immediate sign of her movement being impaired as she starting hitting winners from all angles, but Azarenka took the set at the fourth time of asking.
The Belarusian remained on the front foot as the deciding set got under way, breaking for an early advantage and Li was always playing catch-up.
Li had a chance to draw level at 4-4 only to push a backhand return beyond the baseline. And it proved to be her final opportunity as Azarenka held and then broke to claim her second successive Melbourne crown.