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Clijsters triumphs in Australian Open final with three set win over Li

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Belgium's Kim Clijsters wins women's singles title at Australian Open
  • Third seed beats Li Na of China 3-6 6-3 6-3 in Saturday's final in Melbourne
  • Li was bidding to become the first Asian player to win a grand slam singles title
  • Clijsters was claming her fourth grand slam crown after three U.S. Open wins

(CNN) -- Kim Clijsters claimed her fourth grand slam title with a 3-6 6-3 6-3 victory over China's Li Na in a thrilling Australian Open final in Melbourne Saturday.

Li was bidding to become the first Asian player to win a grand slam singles title but after taking the first set and a 3-2 lead in the second, her hopes were dashed as Belgian ace Clijsters took command.

She wrapped up victory by serving out in the final game to love as she added to her three U.S. Open crowns.

Clijsters was also winning back-to-back grand slams after her Flushing Meadows success last September.

After being kept on court for a shade over two hours, Clijsters had only praise for her dogged opponent.

It's been a great effort for her. I hope we can play many more grand slam finals in the future
--Kim Clijsters
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"Li and I have played some amazing matches over a number of years -- she's a tough competitor," Clijsters said in a courtside interview.

"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."

But it was a crushing disappointment for ninth seed Li, who had saved a match point before beating top seed Caroline Wozniacki in their semifinal.

Interest in her home country was huge, with a reported record television audience for a tennis match watching the final.

The 28-year-old was proud of her achievements in reaching the final and creating so much interest in her home country.

"It doesn't matter if I won or lost today," Li said. "I played my best tennis."

Third seed Clijsters made a blistering start on the Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, claiming the first eight points to take a 2-0 lead.

Who will prevail in Australian Open finals ?

Li broke back but was in trouble at 3-2 down before recovering with a run of four straight games to claim the opening set, capped by a superlative passing shot.

Clijsters broke twice at the start of the second set, but each time Li responded by breaking back, the second time after a thrilling exchange at the net produced the point of the final, secured by the Chinese star.

The start of the second set was marked by a series of service breaks and it was not until the fifth game that either player held as Li took a 3-2 lead.

But back came the irrepressible Clijsters with a run of three games of her own to leave Li to serve to stay in the set.

Li Na makes Chinese tennis history

A blistering forehand down the line set up Clijsters for set point which she duly claimed as Li hit a return into the net.

Clijsters took an early advantage in the second set and although Li broke back she immediately lost her service again and was always trailing.

The 27-year-old Clijsters entered the grand slam as one of the favorites in the absence of injured defending champion Serena Williams.

She has won three of her four major titles since returning to tennis after the birth of her daughter Jada, and will rise to number two in the new world rankings behind Wozniacki.

Li, who lost to Williams in the semifinals last year, will move up to number seven.

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