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Tennis: Azarenka wins second straight Australian Open title

Published: Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 11:25 p.m. CDT
Victoria Azarenka hits a return to Li Na during the women's final at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia. Azarenka won in three sets for her second straight Aussie Open title.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria Azarenka won her second consecutive Australian Open title, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a dramatic final Saturday that contained a break for fireworks, two medical timeouts and a nasty fall to the court by Li.

The Chinese star first tumbled to the court after twisting her left ankle in the fifth game of the second set and had it taped.

On the first point after a 10-minute pause, Li fell over again and slammed the back of her head on the court.

Azarenka won five of the next six games to win the match.

“Unfortunately, you have to go through some rough patches to achieve great things. That’s what makes it so special for me,” she said. “I went through that, and I’m still able to kiss that beautiful trophy.”

When she first injured her ankle, Li was trailing 3-1 in the second set. When she came back, she won three of the next four games to tie it 4-4, but Azarenka broke back and then held her serve.

Li said she went “totally black” for 2 seconds after her head hit the court.

The capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena was firmly behind Li, cheering loudly when she was introduced. Meanwhile, Azarenka’s errors were applauded, and one spectator even mocked the loud hooting sound she makes when she hits a shot.

The chill from the crowd was a remnant of Azarenka’s semifinal win over American teenager Sloane Stephens, when Azarenka was criticized for taking a questionable 10-minute medical timeout near the end of the match.

She was accused of taking the timeout to compose herself after she’d wasted five match points while serving for the match against Stephens. Azarenka said she needed the timeout because a rib injury was making it difficult for her to breathe and she had a knee injury.

“I will always keep very special memories of this court and it will be in my heart forever,” she said, pausing several times to find the right words. “Of course, I almost forgot to say congratulations to Li Na. She’s had a terrific start to the year.”

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