Melbourne: Victoria Azarenka has overcome an often hostile crowd to win back-to-back Australian Open titles, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a dramatic final that contained a break for fireworks, two medical timeouts and a nasty fall to the court by Li. The Chinese star first tumbled to the court after twisting her left ankle, and had it taped after falling in the fifth game of the second set.
On the first point after a 10-minute pause in the third set while fireworks boomed overhead from nearby Australia Day celebrations, Li fell over again and slammed the back of her head into the court. The 2011 French Open champion was treated immediately and had another time out before being allowed to resume the match. The 2-hour, 40-minute match featured 16 service breaks, with Li losing her service nine times.
Azarenka, who broke down in tears and sobbed into her towel when the match ended, won five of the next six games to claim her second major title and retain the No. 1 ranking. The win meant that Azarenka will maintain top spot and Serena Williams, who lost in the quarterfinals, will become the new No. 2 in the rankings.
On a crisp Saturday night, Azarenka won the coin toss and elected to receive, a ploy that seemed to work when a nervous Li was broken to start the match. After a double fault on the first point, Li's forehand long gave Azarenka the early lead.
The capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena was firmly behind Li, cheering loudly when she was introduced. Azarenka, meanwhile, had her errors applauded, and one spectator even mocked the loud hooting sound she makes when she hits a shot.
The chill from the crowd was a remnant of Azarenka's semifinal win over American teenager Sloane Stephens, when Azeranka was criticized for taking a questionable 10-minute medical time out near the end of the match. In the second set, a few fans heckled Azarenka over the incident. One man yelled, "Take a deep breath, Vicky."
By the end of the match, she appeared to have won some of the fans back. Azarenka's friend, rapper Redfoo, yelled down to her from the player box "You deserve it," and she later blew kisses to the crowd. Someone else in the crowd shouted "Victoria, we love you."
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