Singles Final: As It Happened
Published January 26, 2013 12:00
Azarenka gets her hands on the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup for the second straight year before addressing the crowd: "All the fans, thank you so much for all your support. I will always keep a very special memory of this court and you will be in my heart forever.
"The last thing I want to say is Happy Australia Day."
The flashbulbs go off as draw ceremony compere Sandy Roberts introduces Li to the crowd in bizarre fashion. "First of all I would offer my congratulations to Victoria," Li says. She tells the crowd she hated her team two weeks ago "because they pushing me so hard", before adding, "I look forward to seeing you next year."
The players are making their way back on court for the presentation ceremony...
Azarenka is in tears as she celebrates her win. She has defended her title and holds on to her World No.1 ranking in the process.
AZARENKA WINS THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, 46 64 63! Li's not going down without a fight. More joy on the backhand side gives her a 30-15 advantage, but Azarenka wants to finish this now and gets to 30-30 with a big forehand winner that whizzes by a flailing Li. It's tit for tat in the big groundstrokes stakes as Li goes for broke and forces an error. But outstanding defense draws a few more errors and it's championship point...
A big return onto the baseline causes Li to balloon her own backhand long and it's all over!
Azarenka 5-3: Where has this come from? Li steps in and some ferocious hitting takes her to 0-30. A backhand into the net gets Azarenka to 15-30, but then a very nervous forehand gives Li break point. Azarenka is not backing down, though, and comes back with a few heavy strikes of her own before that trusty serve out wide takes her to the brink of victory.
Azarenka 4-3: A sensational backhand return gives Azarenka the perfect start as she looks to wrap up the set, but three cheap points thanks to some super serving and a welcome forehand winner puts a halt to Azarenka's surge.
Azarenka 4-2: There is no let up from Azarenka, who wins a love service game in the blink of an eye to move within two games of defending her title. What has Li got left?
Azarenka 3-2: A first double fault of the set, allows Azarenka to move 15-30 ahead and there are worried looks around the Li camp. When a Li backhand drifts out, it's two break points. Azarenka is now playing her best tennis of the match, crisp hitting outmaneuvers Li whose stretching backhand nestles into the bottom of the net.
2-2: No sooner are the players out on court than they're off it again - another baseline tumble from Li sees her smack her head on the ground and call for the trainer. On the resumption, Li plays three great points, including a forehand winner that grazes the line, to earn a break point. Azarenka produces an equally stunning response to reel off the next three points and level the set up.
Li 2-1: Li's back! Two beautifully placed forehands give her an early 30-0 advantage, and a netted backhand from Azarenka and a fourth ace gives her the game and a 2-1 lead.
It's fireworks. Literally! The players are forced to take a break because it's Australia Day fireworks time. Li will feel much better after stemming the tide with those last two games, and the history books are in her favor - she has won 59 of the 66 Grand Slam matches where she has won the first set.
1-1: There is an instant riposte from Li, though, who gets to 0-30 with a sizzling backhand winner and then a dipping forehand at the feet of an onrushing Azarenka. A string of unforced errors take the World No.1 to 40-30, before Li makes a do-or-die forehand to rescue deuce. An uncharacteristic error from Azarenka and then a double fault gifts Li the game and they're back on serve.
Azarenka 1-0: Azarenka is really in the zone now and quickly moves to 0-30. The Belarusian is scrambling everything back at the moment and taking every opportunity that comes her way - at 15-40, a great return offers up an easy put-away and an early break. Azarenka has now won nine of the last 10 points.
Azarenka 6-4: A couple of errors from Li takes Azarenka to 30-0. Another backhand mistake and it's three set points. A forehand drifts into the tramlines - it's one set all.
Azarenka 5-4: Azarenka isn't going down without a fight. A great lob gets her out of trouble on the first point and when Li nets a backhand it's suddenly 0-30. Li responds by stroking a forehand winner beyond Azarenka's reach, but an error on the same wing brings up two break points. Great character shown here by Azarenka, who gets back the break when a Li backhand that is more frame than string sails long.
4-4: This is getting a tad repetitive; Li hits another screaming backhand to get to 0-15. She repeats the trick on the forehand side and it's 0-30. Azarenka responds well, sneaking into the net before putting away a smart volley. But it's only a momentary reprieve as she gets a drop shot just wrong. A backhand then goes long and Li is now just two games away from a second Grand Slam title.
If Li wins these two games, at 30 years and 335 days, she will be the oldest singles winner in Australian Open history, taking the title from a certain Margaret Court.
Azarenka 4-3: Can Li put the last game to the back of her mind? An ace certainly helps matters, but two double faults see her slip to 15-40. The first is saved with a bludgeoning backhand that forces the mistake from Azarenka and the second when Azarenka dumps a tight-looking backhand into the net. The next point is all Azarenka until a magical passing shot rips it from her grasp. She duly nicks the game from under Azarenka's nose with yet another backhand winner. Game on.
Azarenka 4-2: Now it's Li calling all the shots. A great lob takes her within touching distance of the break back and when Azarenka hooks a forehand wide, it's three break back points. The first is saved with a winner. The second when a net cord sets up an easy put-away. The third? Li sets up the point only to snatch at a backhand winner. Will Li be made to rue this error? Well, she is for now as some more inspired defense sees Azarenka put daylight between her and the Chinese No.1.
Azarenka 3-2: Li's up and running in the set and suddenly producing some of her best tennis. A big forehand takes her to 30-15 - but then a nasty tumble on the baseline sees Li twist her left ankle and take a medical timeout. However, it doesn't seem to have affected her movement as she bounds across the baseline to wrap up the game with two crisp backhand winners.
Azarenka 3-1: Li just misses a forehand down the line but this is quickly followed by a delightful cross-court forehand winner. A couple of Azarenka unforced errors on the forehand side gifts Li two points to get one of the breaks back and she takes the first with an inside out forehand winner that Azarenka can just watch and admire as it flies past.
Azarenka 3-0: A great rally brings the best out of both competitors before Li takes the point with a knifed backhand slice winner. Li is beginning to find her range and moves 30-15 ahead before Azarenka draws level when Li misses a forehand drive down the line. She is made to pay as Azarenka bullies her into another mistake and has a point for 3-0. And she takes it when a scrambling Li can only slash a forehand long.
Azarenka 2-0: It may have contributed to that early break, but Li continues to swing from the hip on the backhand and is rewarded for it when it forces an error from Azarenka. Helped by her first ace of the match, though, Azarenka gets to 30-15. Azarenka continues to defend doggedly, but Li's 14th winner of the match spells more danger at 30-30. Li continues to paint the lines and eventually breaches Azarenka's defenses to get to deuce. A third double fault brings up break point, which is saved with that trusty serve out wide to the Li backhand and then squeaks through a tough game with a hooked forehand winner.
Azarenka 1-0: Fast start from Li who moves to 30-0 but Azarenka pegs her back and a couple of backhand errors give her break point. Then a cracking return draws another mistake on the backhand wing and it's great start to the second set for Azarenka.
Li 6-4: Both players looking a little nervous now and hit a couple of uncharacteristic errors. Li's aggression has served her well so far and another big backhand takes her to 15-30 and then she punishes an inviting second serve with a forehand winner to get set point. A forehand long from Li saves Azarenka who then earns a game point of her own with a wonderful forehand passing shot. The danger isn't over yet as Li wins two straight points for another set point. Azarenka is World No.1 for a reason, though - she takes a gamble coming to the net and staves off the set point. Another set point comes and goes, but a few moments - and one epic rally - later it's fourth time lucky as Azarenka brings a dramatic set to an end with a double fault.
Li 5-4: Is Azarenka starting to find her rhythm? Great length from the champ sees her move to 0-30 and she can smell the break. Li overcooks a backhand and it gifts three break points. The first is saved with a magnificent cross-court backhand winner. Can she save two more? No. A backhand into the net enables Azarenka to get back on serve.
Li 5-3: Azarenka gets a couple of cheap points, but Li is showing no sign of toning down her aggressive approach and gets to 30-30 with a big down-the-line backhand. Azarenka gets herself out of trouble, though, with a nice serve out wide that Li can do nothing about.
Li 5-2: And right on cue Li wraps up an unusually straightforward service game to love with an inside-out forehand winner.
Despite the break-fest we are enjoying, both women are posting good numbers on serve; Azarenka's first serve percentage is 75%, and Li's is at 72%.
Li 4-2: Unperturbed by the last game, Li continues her aggressive approach and races to 0-40 with a couple of punishing rallies. Azarenka saves one of the break points, but it is only a momentary reprieve as Li threads the eye of a needle with a backhand down the line to capture the fifth break in six games.
Li 3-2: Confidence boosting first point for the defending champ as she pulls Li from side to side before putting Li out of her misery with an overhead put-away on the bounce. A couple of big serves and an ace wrestles back the initiative and takes Li to 40-30. A shaky drive volley from China's No.1 brings deuce and a pulled backand wide brings up break point for Azarenka, and she takes it when Li can only dump a backhand into the net after a return lands inches from the baseline.
Li 3-1: Azarenka still looking for her A-game and starts with a doubles fault, and then slips down 15-30 when she loses a crisp baseline exchange. Worse is to follow as Li earns two break points with a beautiful running forehand winner down the line. A backhand into the net sees her take her third game on the trot. Advantage Li.
Li 2-1: Li builds on her momentum with a lovely opening point that ends in a cross-court forehand winner and then an ace. A couple of errors get the Belarusian back to 30-30. Li carves out game point before Azarenka gets back to deuce only to see Li edge ahead when she forces a backhand long.
1-1: Li races into a 0-30 lead after drawing a handful of errors. Azarenka gets back on level terms but a forehand into the net gives her break back point which she takes when Azarenka hits another backhand into the net.
Azarenka 1-0: Edgy start from Li with a double fault, but a crisp forehand winner soon settles her nerves. A few points later, a backhand long offers up the first break point and another Li error sees Azarenka take first blood.
Both players step out to rapturous applause on Rod Laver and Azarenka wins the toss and puts Li in to serve. This will be both players' third Grand Slam final, and both have won one and lost one.
Good evening from Melbourne and welcome to our coverage of the Australian Open final between defending champion Victoria Azarenka and Li Na.
The head-to-head record is neck and neck, with Azarenka leading Li 5-4, although Li has won their only two Grand Slam meetings. Intriguingly poised. Who do you fancy? If you still can't make up your mind, check out our preview and final infographic.