Clijsters breaks Chinese hearts at Open
MELBOURNE, Jan 29, 2011 (AFP) - Belgium's Kim Clijsters came from a
set down to beat Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 and win her maiden Australian Open
title Saturday, dashing Chinese hopes of a first ever Grand Slam win.
After a shaky first set, three-time US Open-winner Clijsters fought
her way back in a thrilling final in front of 15,000 fans at Rod Laver
Arena, including a vocal Chinese contingent.
"I finally feel like you guys can call me 'Aussie Kim' because I won
the title," Clijsters told her Australian fans, who gave her the
nickname when she was engaged to Lleyton Hewitt.
The 27-year-old Clijsters claimed her fourth Grand Slam title, and
her third since ending a long career break to give birth to her
daughter, Jada. She is now considering scaling back her schedule again.
Clijsters went into the tournament as the firm favourite but was made
to battle all the way by Li, who was hoping to complete her own
fairytale by becoming the first Chinese -- or Asian -- player to win a
"Li and I have played some amazing matches over a number of years --
she's a tough competitor," Clijsters said. "It's been a great effort for
her these part two weeks and I hope we can play many more Grand Slam
finals in the future."
Li had been on the front cover of many of China's major newspapers as
the world's most populous nation looked to the 28-year-old from Wuhan to
create a piece of tennis history.
But despite looking the likely winner in the first set, Li faded in
the third and became increasingly agitated as the match slipped away,
complaining about comments and flash photography from the crowd.
"Tell the Chinese (fans), don't teach me how to play tennis," she
fumed to the chair umpire, after being broken in the second set.
Clijsters had opened in fine style as she won the first eight points
of the match, but once Li settled down and found her range with her
dominant groundstokes, and her forehand in particular, she steadily took
She broke Clijsters three times in the first set as she repeatedly
forced her opponent onto the defensive with the power and accuracy of
her shots. Clijsters tried to stay with her but whenever the pair went
toe-to-toe from the baseline, Li invariably came out on top.
"(The first set) was going too fast for me," Clijsters said. "She was
doing everything so well, she was hitting both sides, forehand and
backhand, and she was serving well."
But after convincingly winning the first set, Li began to struggle on
serve and Clijsters took her chance to drag her way back, changing
tactics by taking much of the pace off the ball.
Li tried to counter by hitting harder, but only succeeded in
increasing her error count and handing Clijsters cheap points.
"I tried to serve a bit better, slow it down and put spin on it, and
I tried to loop a few balls," Clijsters said. "She missed some of them
and I saw that made her nervous."
The Belgian broke Li four times in the second set and twice in the
third to wrap up a tense final in 2hr 5min, immediately bursting into
tears as she realised what she had achieved.
Clijsters has now claimed back-to-back Grand Slam titles after also
winning last year's US Open.
Meanwhile Li, 28, was satisfied with becoming the first player from
China to reach a major singles final, which made her an overnight
superstar and saw her compared to idolised basketball player Yao Ming
and hurdler Liu Xiang.
"It doesn't matter if I won or lost today," Li said. "I played my