Li wins Australian Open title

The Sports NetworkJanuary 24, 2014 

Melbourne, Australia (SportsNetwork.com) - The third time was the charm for Li Na.

The fourth-seeded Chinese star beat Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 at Rod Laver Arena to capture her first Australian Open title on Saturday.

Li played in her third final in four years at Melbourne Park. She lost to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Victoria Azarenka last year before finally breaking through at the season's first Grand Slam event against the 20th-seeded Cibulkova.

Her win came at the end of a fortnight featuring an array of surprising results on the women's side. It was the first time since 1997 that none of the top three seeds made the semifinals.

Li committed 25 of her 30 unforced errors in a competitive opening set before she unexpectedly breezed through the second. She had a 34-11 advantage in winners, many coming on her lethal backhand, and converted half of her 10 break-point chances.

The second double fault by Cibulkova in the match's opening game gave Li an early break. A double fault then hurt Li as Cibulkova gained a break to level the first set at 3-all.

Li earned a break point with a strong backhand winner in the ninth game, but two of her forehands flew long and Cibulkova was able to hold for a 5-4 lead.

After closing out a relative easy service game with an ace to extend the set, Li earned two break points when she followed up Cibulkova's sixth double fault with a blistering crosscourt backhand. Cibulkova then netted a backhand to give Li a 6-5 lead before she broke back to force a tiebreak.

Li raced out to a commanding 5-1 lead in the tiebreak and she later claimed the 70-minute first set when Cibulkova dumped a backhand into the net.

The second set lasted only 27 minutes and ended with Cibulkova sending a ground stroke long.

Li, who turns 32 next month, captured her second Grand Slam title, adding to her victory at the 2011 French Open, and improved to 9-11 in career finals. She also is just the fourth woman to win the Aussie Open crown after saving a match point. She fought off the match point in the third round against Lucie Safarova and joined Monica Seles (1991), Jennifer Capriati (2002) and Serena Williams (2003 and 2005) to accomplish the feat.

Cibulkova, who stands just 5-foot-3, knocked off No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova in the fourth round and No. 5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals to become Slovakia's first Grand Slam finalist. The 24-year-old fell to 3-6 in her career title tilts and 0-5 against Li.

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