Victoria Azarenka Beats Li Na to Win 2nd Straight Australian Open Title
The No. 1-seeded Belarusian defeated No. 6 Li Na in three sets (4-6, 6-4, 6-3).
The match took just more than two-and-a-half hours to complete, but it featured a pair of injury timeouts for Li and two intense final sets.
Here we'll recap and break down how Saturday's women's final unfolded inside Rod Laver Arena.
Champion Comes Out Slow, Battles Back
Azarenka was in trouble early on, as she dropped the first set in roughly 45 minutes. Neither player was strong during their service games in the first set, but Li won 56 percent of her second-serve points. She cashed in on 4-of-8 break-point chances which turned out to be the difference in her 6-4 set win.
Azarenka would ratchet her game up in the second set, however, improving her serve and taking advantage of Li's, which began to fade as the match tightened.
The young champion would cash in on one more break point than Li in the second set to knot things up at one set apiece, winning the second set 6-4.
The third set would be all Azarenka, however, as she converted all three of her break-point chances, recorded seven winners and committed just four unforced errors down the stretch to win the decisive set 6-3. Li recorded 21 unforced errors in the match's most important set.
Li Fights Pain, Struggles Down the Stretch
Li Na fought hard on Saturday, trying to battle through the pain to win her second career Grand Slam title. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to overcome the younger Azarenka.
The 30-year-old Chinese star injured her left ankle twice and hit her head on the court once during the match and was in noticeable discomfort throughout the remainder. She would commit 57 unforced errors in all, more than twice Azarenka's count. Li even finished the match with three straight unforced errors.
Beyond the high error tally, Li's serve is another area in which she struggled on Saturday. She landed just 65 percent of her first serves, winning only 48 percent of her first-serve points for the match.
Li also failed to capitalize on her break-point chances, converting just 7-of-18 for the match. Meanwhile, Azarenka cashed in on nine of her 12.
Azarenka Makes History
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Victoria Azarenka is now among a legendary group of past Aussie Open female champions. Azarenka becomes the first woman since Serena Williams in 2010 to repeat at Australia.
She also joins a select group of back-to-back winners Down Under; one that includes Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and Steffi Graf, among others.
The 23-year-old Azarenka still has a long way to go before she can contend with many of those women in terms of total Grand Slam titles, but after Saturday's victory, she shares something unique with all of them at the year's first Slam.
With plenty of amazing tennis still ahead for Azarenka, there's no telling where she'll rank among the all-time great Aussie Open winners.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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