Third-time lucky Li keeps her wits to win Australian Open

Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:10am EST
 
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - "Best speech ever" was the universal verdict to Li Na's unscripted thanks at the trophy ceremony after she erased two near-misses at Melbourne Park with a joyous victory in her third Australian Open final on Saturday.

Runner-up in 2011 and 2013, the 31-year-old overwhelmed Dominika Cibulkova 7-6(3) 6-0 to win her second grand slam title and then left a packed Rod Laver Arena in stitches as she paid tribute to her team.

After warming up by paying respects to her opponent, Li thanked her high-profile agent Max Eisenbud for "making me rich" before singling out her husband and former coach Jiang Shan, long the butt of his wife's jokes, for special praise.

"Now, of course, my husband ... famous in China. Thanks for him for giving up everything, just travelling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the racquets, so, he did a lot of jobs," she grinned as Jiang was ribbed in the players' box.

"So, thanks a lot, you're a nice guy.

"And ... also you are so lucky, you found me."

The speech capped an emotional night for Li, who was so nervous before her match that she decided to take a late afternoon nap to avoid looking at the television or thinking too much about her third appearance in the final.

A flighty temperament has long been her cross to bear and nerves intervened decisively during her first Melbourne final against Kim Clijsters when she took a set lead only to be overhauled by the Belgian and bowed out by taking out her frustrations on noisy Chinese spectators.   Continued...

 
Li Na of China celebrates defeating Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in their women's singles final match at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 25, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed