At the 2011 Australian Open, Li Na made a great step for Chinese tennis, even though her first Grand Slam final went to the hands of Kim Clijsters, who won her fourth major title and her first away from New York.
Seed No.3 Clijsters had the advantage of more experience, but Li was a great competitor and despite her nervousness, she didn’t melt down as we have seen with other first-time finalists on grand stage. The ninth-seeded Li won the first set 6-3 and kept the match uncertain almost until the end. When Clijsters had three match points at 40-0, it was pretty clear who was to become the latest Australian Open champion, and the humble Belgian won on her first match point. Final score: 3-6 6-3 6-3.
Li has nothing to regret: she gave resistance in the final, made history for China by becoming its first Grand Slam finalist, came to the championships match with a perfect 11-0 record in 2011, which included the victory over Clijsters herself in the Sydney final and the victory over world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki in the semis of the Australian Open.
I’m mentioning Li’s achievement more, because Clijsters’ post-retirement achievements are so amazing that whatever I would say would not be enough. Three Grand Slam titles, including the defense of the US Open one, and now back-to-back Grand Slam titles, all that while being a mother – Kim, you deserve utmost appreciation.
To reach the final Kim defeated, in order: Dinara Safina, Carla Suarez Navarro, Alize Cornet, Ekaterina Makarova, seed No.12 Agnieszka Radwanska and second seed Vera Zvonareva.
I’d like to add one more thing about this final. There were no screams, overexpressed emotions (including the trophy ceremony), flashy outfits – it was a simple and enjoyable encounter of two nice ladies doing what they do best.