Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Third time lucky for Li Na at Australian Open

By Ravi Ubha, for CNN
updated 8:42 AM EST, Sat January 25, 2014
Li Na clutches the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup following her triumph in Melbourne on Saturday. Li Na clutches the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup following her triumph in Melbourne on Saturday.
HIDE CAPTION
Glory for Li in Melbourne
Moment of victory
Cibulkova's silverware
Chinese hero
Fighting spirit
Path to the final
Cibulkova reaches first grand slam final
Pennetta sent packing
Cibulkova clobbers Halep
Li-sy-peasy
Sharapova suffers
Williams suffers shock exit
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Li Na beats Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets to win the Australian Open
  • It's Li's second grand slam title after she won the 2011 French Open
  • Rafael Nadal goes for 14th grand slam title against Stanislas Wawrinka on Sunday

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

Melbourne, Australia (CNN) -- Li Na took advantage of her second chance at the Australian Open.

The Chinese tennis trailblazer was a point away from exiting in the third round but survived against Lucie Safarova and didn't lose another set the rest of the tournament.

The world No. 4 beat diminutive dynamo Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7-3) 6-0 in Saturday's final to collect a second grand slam title following her success at the 2011 French Open.

Li also made it third time lucky in Melbourne after defeats in the 2011 and 2013 finale.

"At least, you know, I made it," Li told reporters. "Not like the last two times, always feeling (there was) one more step. But this time I'm so proud myself."

The 31-year-old was a popular champion -- receiving the lion's share of applause when the players were introduced at Rod Laver Arena -- and likely attracted even more fans thanks to her comical post-match speech on court.

Tennis legends' surprising comebacks
Pat Rafter grooms the next generation
Do great players make great coaches?
Ivanovic on life after tennis
The rise of Australian Open

Read more: Full coverage of CNN's Open Court

Li began by thanking her agent, Max Eisenbud, who also represents Maria Sharapova.

"Max, my agent, thanks for making me rich," said Li, named last year by Forbes as the third richest female athlete in the world behind Sharapova and Serena Williams with takings of $18.2 million.

Li later mentioned her husband Jiang Shan, who in the past has been the butt of the baseliner's jokes.

"Now of course my husband is even famous in China," she said. "You are a nice guy. Also you are so lucky to find me!"

The 5-foot-3 Cibulkova was appearing in her maiden grand slam final and a victory would have made the 24th-ranked Slovakian the joint shortest singles winner at a major in the Open Era.

No one would have begrudged her the title, too, since she had topped four players inside the top 20 including Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska. Li, meanwhile, didn't face anyone inside the top 20.

"This was just a fantastic two weeks of my life," said Cibulkova, who cried as she addressed the crowd. "This means a lot for our country and I'm happy I could be the one here for Slovakia.

"Maybe tomorrow morning I will be 100% proud of myself," she later told reporters. "But now it's just maybe like 50%."

Expected to defeat Cibulkova -- she had won all four previous meetings with the 24-year-old -- Li proceeded to break early and took a 2-0 lead.

But she admitted to being nervous and after the hard-hitting Cibulkova saved a break point to avoid trailing 3-0, she rallied to grab a 4-3 lead.

"Today it was very dangerous," Li's coach Carlos Rodriguez, long associated with seven-time grand slam champion Justine Henin, told CNN. "You're in the final for the third time, you've never been the favorite before, you are today, you have to deal with such a good player who has beaten the top five and top three during the second week."

Li held serve under pressure at 4-5 and then broke for 6-5. Instead of kicking on, though, she missed a backhand down the line on set point and a tiebreak was needed to decide the opener.

Li took a convincing 5-1 lead as she settled down and once the set was decided, she relaxed -- and Cibulkova couldn't recover from the tiebreak.

"She was going for her shots," Cibulkova told reporters. "After it was impossible for me to do something and be aggressive because she was just really, really playing well."

Whereas the first set lasted 70 minutes, the second went a mere 27 minutes. Cibulkova won 12 points and sent a forehand long on match point to end Li's disappointment in Melbourne.

"Finally I got her," Li said, referring to the trophy.

On Sunday, Rafael Nadal goes for his 14th major when he faces Stanislas Wawrinka in the men's final.

Nadal owns a 12-0 record against the Swiss, making his debut in a grand slam final like Cibulkova, without conceding a set.

Read more: Roger Federer still can't figure out Rafael Nadal

Read more: Size doesn't matter for Dominika Cibulkova

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
French Tennis player Rene Lacoste, one of France's 'Four Musketeers' who won the Davis Cup in 1932, at Wimbledon. He is wearing his embroidered crocodile motif. Original Publication: People Disc - HH0434 (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
updated 2:36 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Marin Cilic follows in the footsteps of his coach Goran Ivanicevic by claiming a grand slam crown for Croatia, winning the U.S. Open.
updated 9:34 AM EDT, Sun September 14, 2014
Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.
Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Canada and tennis? Really? Yup. The North American tennis power balance is swinging away from the States.
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
As a player he was as fiery as his hair -- and as Novak Djokovic's coach, Boris Becker says he has to battle to keep his emotions in check.
updated 7:02 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Tennis great Boris Becker says he was stunned by the level of criticism he received after being appointed as Novak Djokovic's coach.
updated 7:01 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
"I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
When Agnieszka Radwanska refused to look her opponent in the eye after losing at Wimbledon, it raised more than eyebrows.
updated 9:14 PM EDT, Sun June 22, 2014
It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
He's regularly voted France's favorite famous person, but many of the nation's youth have "no idea" about his glorious sporting past
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.
ADVERTISEMENT