In 2012, Victoria Azarenka started her year winning her first 26 matches, the longest streak on the WTA since Martina Hingis started 37-0 in 1997. Throughout the streak, Vika at times looked unbeatable. No matter what you hit at her, it was coming back…with power. Even great players had to play nearly flawlessly just to win points. Going into the 2013 Australian Open final, that version of Vika had not made an appearance. Yes, she was making her way through the draw, but she was nearly ousted by Jamie Hampton and was inconsistent against Sloane Stephens. Even for the first two sets in the final against Li Na, she played well but not brilliantly. Until the match went to the third set. Suddenly, Azarenka tightened up the loose shots. She once again started to combine the defensive prowess of Agnieszka Radwanska with the power of Kim Clijsters, a formidable combination, one that was too much for Li Na. Vika backed up her #1 ranking, retained with her victory, and won her second straight Australian Open, 4-6 6-4 6-3.
Not only did Vika have to overcome a determined, veteran foe in Li Na, but also a decidedly hostile crowd still smarting from her controversial (in their eyes anyway) injury time-out against Sloane Stephens and subsequent explanations. They cheered loudly for Li Na while saving their most vocal cheers for Azarenka after her mistakes, such as wild applause for double faults. It wasn’t until after the match was won that the crowd relented in their condemnation and gave Vika the warm plaudits she deserved.
There were two injury scares during the match, both concerning Li Na. First, she seemed to plant wrong on her left ankle in the first set, her leg giving way.
Then, even more seriously, she would later turn her ankle over and go down again. Only this time, she would hit the back of her head against the court. She smiled through the ordeal, but the training staff checked her for concussion-related symptoms during the entire time-out, not even bothering to attend to her ankle. The spill occurred on the first point back from an extended delay after fireworks in the area celebrating Australia Day delayed the match.
In the end, Vika found that little bit extra that she needed to defeat Li Na. She went to that place that made her #1 in the first place. She might not have made many new fans at this Australian Open and the media might still (unfairly) take her to task for the injury time-out incident, but make no mistake that Victoria Azarenka deserved to win this tournament. She wasn’t as perfect as she was when she won this event last year, but when it counted most, she lifted her game and made the shots that mattered.
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VICTORIA AZARENKA def. Li Na, 4-6 6-4 6-3