Updated: 29/01/2014 19:43 | By Press Association

Patience pays off for champion Li



China's Li Na has now won two grand slam titles (© AP)

China's Li Na has now won two grand slam titles (AP)

Li Na's Australian Open title was a long time in the making.

The 31-year-old defeated Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7/3) 6-0 to add a second grand slam title to the French Open crown she won in 2011.

But, while that came as a surprise to China's heroine, this was a title she has had her eye on for many years.

Li made her first final at Melbourne Park in 2011, losing to Kim Clijsters, and then was beaten again by Victoria Azarenka 12 months ago after falling twice on court.

The fourth seed was a big favourite to beat surprise finalist Cibulkova, and she said: "A t least I made it. Not like the last two times, always feeling it was one more step. I'm so proud of myself.

"I would say I prefer this title. I prepared for this one already for two weeks.

"Every round, every day, I was thinking about what I should do. I prepared for if I played semis, if I played final what I should do.

"At the French I was feeling I just went for it. I didn't think about winning or losing. But this one, I really wished I could do well. Maybe you don't know how hard I was working mentally to make this one happen."

The Chinese player is one of the game's great characters and she had the Rod Laver Arena crowd roaring with laughter after receiving the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup from Chris Evert.

Li thanked her agent Max Eisenbud "for making me rich", and said husband Jiang Shan, always the butt of her jokes, was lucky to have her.

She said: "Actually I didn't feel I was very funny when I spoke. I was feeling this is normal, this is the way I have to thank the team.

"But after I finished people said, 'Oh, we love your speech'. I was thinking maybe I speak too much. Maybe next time I should speak even longer."

Cibulkova had only previously made one grand slam semi-final, and that came at the French Open five years ago, so Li, who saved a match point in her third-round win over Lucie Safarova, had big expectations on her shoulders.

The pressure seemed to get to her in an opening set that featured plenty of errors from both players.

At one stage Li's first-serve percentage was 13 and she missed the chance to serve it out.

But the fourth seed was the stronger in the tie-break, and that hurdle overcome, she raced through the second set.

Li took her second match point when Cibulkova hit a forehand long, and she admitted she had let her mind wander in the final game.

She said: "When she served at 15-40, I was thinking, 'Okay, after I win the match, what should I do?'

"But after I lost the point, I was like, 'Okay, don't think. Just focus on this point'. After I won, I was really, really excited. I think I had tears coming down. I tried to hug my team, but they were too high up.

"At the beginning of the match I think both of us were tight and nervous. I tried to hang in there. A fter I won the first set, I started the second much better."

Cibulkova, the 20th seed, beat Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska on her way to becoming the first player to represent Slovakia in a grand slam singles final.

"I'm really looking forward to going back home," she said. "In Slovakia it's a huge thing. I am happy I represented my country so well.

"I just lost the final but maybe tomorrow morning I will be 100 per cent proud of myself. But now it's just maybe 50 per cent.

"It was my first grand slam final and I'm proud of the way I handled it. I wanted to play my best tennis. It wasn't easy against her because she was playing extremely well."

0Comments
Get the Bing Sports App for Windows 8 (© Microsoft)

latest tennis news

  • Heather Watson made an early exit in China

    Heather Watson made a first-round exit at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open after losing in straight sets to Sara Errani.

  • Ana Ivanovic secured her fourth WTA title of the year in Tokyo on Sunday  AP

    Ana Ivanovic ensured 2014 will be the best year of her career to date after beating Caroline Wozniacki in the final of the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

  • David Goffin, pictured, beat Joao Sousa to win the Moselle Open in Metz

    Belgian David Goffin claimed his second career title with a straight-sets victory over Portugal's Joao Sousa at the Moselle Open in Metz.

  • Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova has claimed the second WTA title of her career

    Karolina Pliskova was finally able to celebrate a tournament victory this year after beating Varvara Lepchenko in three sets in the final of the Korean Open in Seoul.

  • David Goffin is through to only his second ATP Tour final

    David Goffin continued his impressive run at the Moselle Open by beating Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets to reach his second ATP tournament final.

  • Caroline Wozniacki, pictured, will face Ana Ivanovic in the final  AP

    Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic will vie for the Toray Pan Pacific Open title after winning their respective semi-finals on Saturday.

  • Monica Niculescu has won this year's Guangzhou International Women's Open

    Monica Niculescu overcame an out-of-sorts Alize Cornet in straight sets to win the Guangzhou International Women's Open on Saturday.

  • Karolina Pliskova has one WTA singles crown to her name but could add a second on Sunday

    Karolina Pliskova and Varvara Lepchenko will contest Sunday's Korean Open final in Seoul after winning their respective semi-final encounters.

  • Li Na has confirmed her retirement from tennis

    Two-time grand slam winner Li Na has announced her retirement from the sport after struggling to overcome knee problems.

  • Angelique Kerber eased into the semi-finals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open  AP

    The top three seeds at the Toray Pan Pacific Open all progressed safely to the semi-finals of the Tokyo tournament and without dropping a set in their respective matches.

  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, pictured, is out of the Moselle Open after losing to David Goffin

    Home favourite and number one seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was a shock casualty in the quarter-finals of the Moselle Open in Metz after he lost to David Goffin.

  • Andy Murray posted on Twitter his support for the Yes campaign

    Andy Murray has been subjected to online abuse after declaring his support for the Yes campaign in the independence referendum.

  • China's Li Na is reportedly set to bid farewell to tennis

    China's two-time grand slam winner Li Na is set to announce her retirement, according to widespread reports in her home country.

  • Caroline Wozniacki battled through to the Tokyo quarter-finals

    Caroline Wozniacki scraped past Jarmila Gajdosova to reach the last eight at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

  • Alize Cornet is through to the last four in Guangzhou

    Alize Cornet made sure of a place in the semi-finals of the Guangzhou International Women's Open with a hard-fought win over Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei.