Playing the Australian Open final for the third time, China’s Li Na finally succeeded in going all the way to the trophy by working hard in the first set before cruising through the second to outclass first-time Grand Slam finalist Dominika Cibulkova.
The fourth-seeded Li took command right at the start, breaking Cibulkova in the opening game and consolidating that lead with a hold for 2-0. Two holds of serve followed and about half an hour of play, the first Slovakian Grand Slam finalist Cibulkova spiced things up by winning three straight games to lead 4-3. Li performed well to get equal again for 4-4 and in the next game Cibulkova executed a big hold of her serve, saving a break point and establishing lead again, however, on Cibulkova’s next serve Li again threatened with a double break point and used her first to go up again. But it was not to be over yet. Leading 6-5 30-30, Li faltered at the net and gave Cibulkova a chance to force a tiebreak, which the Slovakian did, but not immediately, after a few twists and turns.
In the tiebreak Li stormed to a 5-1 lead and never looked back, taking the first set in 70 minutes and the second in just 27 minutes. Final score: 7-6(3) 6-0. The 20th-seeded Cibulkova hit only 11 winners to 28 double faults in the match, while Li’s differential was +4, 34 winners to 30 unforced errors.
En route to her second Grand Slam title, after the 2011 French Open, Li defeated Ana Konjuh in the first round, Belinda Bencic in the second, then saved a match point against seed No.26 Lucie Safarova in the third, eliminated seed No.22 Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth, seed No.28 Flavia Pennetta in the quarterfinals, seed No.30 Eugenie Bouchard in the semis and finally the surprise finalist Cibulkova, who missed her chance in the first set and faded away in the second. (photo: ©Neal Trousdale)