Clijsters wins Australian Open

Belgian beats Li Na in three sets at Melbourne Park to deny China a first singles Grand Slam champion.

    Clijsters poses with Li as the runner-up recovers her composure during the awards ceremony [AFP]

    Belgian Kim Clijsters shrugged off a listless start to reel in China's Li Na 3-6 6-3 6-3 to win the Australian Open and her fourth Grand Slam title.

    Clijsters took control of the match after Li imploded under pressure in the second set on Saturday.

    Stunned early by Li's fierce baseline power, third seed Clijsters upped her game to break at 3-3 in the second set in a tension-charged atmosphere at Rod Laver Arena.

    The 28-year-old Li crumbled spectacularly and marched to the chair at the change of ends to ask British umpire Alison Lang: "Can you tell the Chinese don't teach me how to play tennis?"

    Li's outburst was reminiscent of her infamous moment during her semi-final against Dinara Safina at the Beijing Olympics singles tournament where she told a boisterous local crowd to "shut up."

    Having dominated for most of the match, Li won only three of the next eight games as triple US Open champion Clijsters marched to her first Australian Open crown.

    Li, who was bidding to become both China and Asia's first singles Grand Slam champion, almost fittingly blasted a wild forehand to concede the match and Clijsters shrieked and held her head in elation.


    "I'm a little shaky still. Congratulations to Li Na. She had a great effort the last two weeks and is definitely a very tough competitor," said Clijsters, clutching the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

    The win was Clijsters's third Grand Slam since returning to the game in 2009 after a two-year retirement.

    Li, who also complained about flashing cameras as the third set slipped away, recovered her composure during the awards ceremony and thanked her husband and coach Jiang Shan in the stands.

    "The man in the yellow shirt is my husband. It doesn't matter if you are fat or skinny or ugly. I always love you," she said, prompting laughter from the 15,000-strong crowd at the stadium.

    Clijsters was the early aggressor, blasting an ace on the first point, then breaking Li to love to charge to a 2-0 lead.

    Ninth seed Li won her first point after losing the first eight and sparked into life, attacking Clijsters's serve with abandon and taking the break back after the Belgian slapped a backhand wide.

    Li punished a wayward Clijsters as the Belgian sprayed shots all over the court and the Chinese pressed the advantage to bring up two set points with a searing forehand.

    Li sealed the second with an imperious crosscourt forehand that passed Clijsters at the net to charge into the second set after only 38 minutes.

    Shaken but not stirred, the Belgian bided her time as both players struggled to hold serve, and gained a jolt of confidence when she held to level 3-3.

    Sensing a turning-point, Clijsters upped the tempo at 3-3 to throw Li off her game, drawing two break points. Li saved one, but froze on the second, ignoring an open court to blast a volley straight back to Clijsters.

    The Belgian, playing in her eighth grand slam final, snapped up the chance and blasted a forehand winner to take the decisive break and send Li charging toward the umpire in frustration.

    Clijsters took advantage of Li's gloom, holding serve before sealing the set when Li dumped a backhand into the net.

    The 27-year-old Belgian carried the momentum into the third set, roaring to 4-1 before calmly serving out the match as Li's Grand Slam dream slipped through her fingers.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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