Live Commentary: Australian Open women's final - Victoria Azarenka vs. Li Na - as it happened

Victoria Azarenka in action in the semifinal of the Australian Open tennis championship on January 24, 2013
© AP Photos
Live coverage of the women's final between Li Na and Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open.

Victoria Azarenka has retained the Australian Open title with a three-sets win over Li Na in the women's final.

The Chinese player took a one-set lead, but needed two medical time-outs after sustaining an ankle injury.

There was little between the two players throughout the match, with both women having to fight hard to hold their serves.

Read how all the action unfolded below:


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8.10amGood morning, we're around half an hour from the start of play, in what should be a close match between Victoria Azarenka and Li Na.

8.12amThe reigning champion has caused controversy on her way to the final, after taking a lengthy medical break during her semi-final against Sloane Stephens, just as the teenager had saved five match points.

8.14amAzarenka also faced a scare during the third round, being taken to a third set by Jamie Hampton. However, the American suffered a back injury, and Azarenka was able to power through.

8.15amLi Na has had a very comfortable passage through the draw, and is yet to drop a set. She sealed her place in the semi-final with an impressive display against Maria Sharapova, who been amongst the favourite for the title at that point.

8.18amThe pair have faced each other nine times before, with the Belarusian just shading the head-to-head, winning five games to Li's four. Azarenka has won their last four matches, not losing to the Chinese player since the 2011 French Open quarter-final, which Li went on to win.

8.21amLi has had a quiet 18 months since she won her French Open title and has changed coach during that time. She told reporters: "I really have to enjoy the moment, this is a new start so I am looking forward to the final.

"I just want to keep playing well, I am calm and have had good training, this time is a different story."


8.26amWhen talking about her semi-final medical time-out, Azarenka said: "It got to the point that it was pretty much impossible for me to breathe and to play. It took a little bit longer. The timing, it was my bad. The game before that when I lost my service game, it kept getting worse.

"I thought I would have to play through it and keep calm. But it just got worse. I had to do it. I had to unlock my rib, which was causing my back problem. The trainer said we had to go off court to treat that. I just didn't really want to take off my dress on the court."


8.29amSince hiring new coach Carlos Rodriguez, who was Justine Henin's coach for much of her career, Li has changed her service action and it seems to be paying off. It the semi-finals, the sixth seed's serve was an average of 13kph faster than Azarenka's.

8.32amSerena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou is predicting a win for Li Na. He believes that Azarenka is a little on edge and under pressure as the defending champion.

8.34amThe players are ready to head out to the court. The world number one is going through her infamous dance-based warm-up routine. According to British tennis player, and Eurosport pundit, Ross Hutchins, the Belarusian is known for performing some odd routines ahead of her matches.

8.35amThe players have just walked out on to the court. Li Na attracts the bigger cheer from the crowd. There's a couple of boos for Azarenka, who has been criticised in the local media for her semi-final.

8.37amThe world number one has won the coin toss and has decided to let Li serve first. The pair will have a couple of minute to warm up, and then the match will get underway.

8.40amAmongst Azarenka's supporters today is former LMFAO member Redfoo. Since putting his musical interests on hold last year, he has turned his hand to tennis coaching, and also sponsored an event on the WTA tour last year.

8.41amCompared to earlier this week, it's a relatively cool day in Melbourne. Temperatures at the Rod Laver Arena are around 18°C, with some cloud coverage and a little wind.

8.44amThe warm-ups are over, and the players are ready to go.

Azarenka *1-0 LiBREAK! It's a nervy start from the Chinese player as she opens with a double fault. A couple of good ground strokes help get back in to the game, but Azarenka steps it up, moving in to the net for an aggressive volley before a long ball from Li hands the Belarusian the first game.

Azarenka 1-1* LiBREAK! A couple of brilliant returns from the world number six give her a 30-0 lead. A good backhand gives Li a break point, which she takes when Azarenka gets her shot stuck at the net. Both players clearly suffering from nerves in the early stages of this match.

Azarenka *1-2 LiLi's serve is better this time around, finding the first ace of the match. The Chinese player has more power than Azarenka and she uses it to good effect to force mistakes from her opponent. However, a shot to the net from the sixth seed brings up deuce, but two long shots from the world number one give Li the first hold of the match.

Azarenka 1-3* LiBREAK! Azarenka starts her service game with a double fault. Li's pace behind the baseline helps her dominate rallies with the Belarusian, and brings up two break points with a stunning backhand while sliding towards the outside of the court. A slow serve from the top seed allows Li an easy return, and she break Azarenka's serve again.

Azarenka *2-3 LiBREAK! Some solid serving helps Li to a 40-30 lead, and with Azarenka out wide she has the chance to hit the ball in to an open court, but she puts too much behind the volley to bring up deuce. A long stroke from Li bring up break point for the defending champion, and she takes it by sending a strong return off the Li serve back to the sixth seed, which she can't get back over the net.

Azarenka 2-4* LiBREAK! Some big returns from Li bring up three break points against Azarenka's serve. The sixth seed sends a backhand long, before sealing the break with a superb backhand down the sideline, which left Azarenka rooted to the spot.

Azarenka *2-5 LiLi finds her strongest service game of the match so far, with some brilliantly-timed serves, backed up with some strong ground strokes. Li finished with another stunning shot down the sideline, and is just one game away from the set, with Azarenka yet to hold serve.

9.15amThe crowd is definitely on Li's side. Azarenka challenged a call that saw her shot ruled wide. When the fans saw the replay, which showed the ball was a couple of inches out, there was a big cheer around the Rod Laver Arena.

Azarenka 3-5* LiAzarenka gets her first hold of serve in the match. At 30-30, Li over-hits a couple of balls, handing Azarenka the game, but she will now get the chance to serve for the set.

Azarenka *4-5 LiBREAK! Azarenka finally seems to have settled in to this match, forcing mistakes from her opponent to bring up three break points. Li finds a cross-court backhand that just hits the sideline to save the first, but she hits the net on the next point, and Azarenka is right back in this first set.

9.30amSET! Azarenka 4-6 Li

9.31amAzarenka's serve lacks pace, and it allows Li to go on the attack, bringing up set point. However, she edges the shot long, taking the game to deuce. Li brings up her third set point of the game by hitting a brilliant backhand to win a lengthy rally between the pair. Li brings up another set point straight away, and is gifted the game and first set when Azarenka serves a double fault.

9.33amLi was much the more attacking of the two players in that first set. At times she tried too hard, making 18 unforced errors. However, Azarenka struggled to find her rhythm, only looking comfortable for a couple of games towards the end of the set, before a shaky display in the last game cost her the set.

Azarenka 4-6 *1-0 LiBREAK! A closely-fought game sees the score head to deuce. Li gives Azarenka a break point after getting her backhand caught at the net, before sending a shot long on the next point to drop her serve at the start of the second set.

Azarenka 4-6 2-0* LiAzarenka looks to be finding her form again, but some great attacking returns from Li allow her to take the game to deuce. The Belarusian's third double fault of the match gives Li a break point, but a high lob from the Chinese player on the next point goes just long. Azarenka forces advantage before a brilliant shot down the sideline seals the game for her. It's been two very tight games at the start of the this second set.

Azarenka 4-6 *3-0 LiBREAK! Azarenka is starting to look much stronger in this second set than in the previous one. Some devastating returns from the world number one are too much for Li to control, giving Azarenka break point. Another strong return from the Belarusian sees Li's reply fly long.

Azarenka 4-6 3-1* LiBREAK! Just as she looked to be control of the set, Azarenka sends down a couple of long balls, bringing up two break points for Li Na. A brilliantly-timed cross-court forehand clinches the game for the Chinese player.

9.56amLi takes a tumble behind the baseline and it looks like she is struggling to put weight on her left leg. It looks like the trainer is going to be called to take a look at her.

9.57amThe sixth seed has had problems with her right knee throughout her career, but it looks like it's her left knee or ankle, which she twisted as she lost her footing.

9.59amThere's a whole team surrounding the Chinese player now as she takes a medical time out. Her left ankle is being strapped up, so hopefully that means she will be able to continue. It is always a shame to see any player lose because of injury, particularly in the final of a tournament.

10.01amIn the meantime, Azarenka is keeping loose. She's up out of her seat practicing her serving, which has had ups and downs throughout the match so far.

10.02amA lot of tape and bandages have gone on that ankle. Li has been most effective so far while moving behind the baseline, so it will be interesting to see how this effects her game, but she is ready to continue at 30-30.

Azarenka 4-6 *3-2 LiIt looks like a good job by the medical team, as Li moves effortlessly around the court to quickly wrap up the two points she needed to take the game.

Azarenka 4-6 4-2* LiAzarenka is struggling with her accuracy, hitting balls out on the first three points of the game to give Li triple break point. A backhand winner saves the first, before she reacts well after the sixth seed gets a lucky hit off the net chord. Li has the chance to fire her backhand in to an open court, but her effort is low and fails to clear the net, bringing up deuce. A long return from the Chinese player gives Azarenka advantage, and she seals it with a forehand down the sideline. A missed opportunity for Li.

Azarenka 4-6 *4-3 LiIt looks like missing out on the break in the previous game has effected Li, as she serves her first double fault of the match, immediately followed by a second, to give Azarenka two break points. She wastes the first with a wide shot, and hits the net on the next, allowing Li back in to the game at Deuce. The misses seem to lift Li, who takes advantage with a superb shot down the sideline, following up with another to take the game. Both players are having hot and cold spells at the minute.

Azarenka 4-6 4-4* LiBREAK! Azarenka tries a drop shot, but it's poorly executed and gives Li two break points. She saves the first but a forehand on the next point goes long. The defending champion challenges, but it was a good couple of inches out. The break means it's back on serve in the second set.

Azarenka 4-6 *5-4 LiBREAK! Azarenka responds well to the break, quickly taking a 40-15 lead against the Li serve, before a mistake by the sixth seed allows Azarenka to go up a break yet again, and she will serve for the second set in the next game.

10.28amSET! Azarenka 4-6 6-4 Li

10.29amAzarenka finds some of her best serves of the match so far to race to a 40-0 lead, and give herself three set points. Li makes a good return against the Belrusian's serve, but fires her forehand long a couple of strokes later to allow her opponent to tie up the match, and send it in to a deciding set.

Azarenka 4-6 6-4 *1-0 LiBREAK! It's a poor start to the third set by Li. She tries to smash a backhand cross-court, but puts far to much power behind the ball, and it goes long to give Azarenka two break points, which she easily takes with a brilliant forehand.

Azarenka 4-6 6-4 1-1* LiAzarenka looks to be well in control of the game, but a couple of good shots from Li and some clumsy strokes from Azarenka gives the Chinese player break point. A double fault from Azarenka gifts her opponent the break.

10.38amThe match is expected to be interrupted shortly, as a fireworks display to celebrate Australia Day is due to take place.

Azarenka 4-6 6-4 *1-2 LiAfter a lackluster opening game to the third set, Li has rediscovered he serving rhythm. She races to a 40-0 lead before allowing Azarenka a point, but she seals the game with an ace.

10.42amWell the fireworks are underway, so the players are just taking a few minutes break.

10.43amWhile the display takes place, Azarenka has called the trainer out. She's been moving quite well at the start of the this set, so I'm not sure what it's for, but she's gone off the court.

10.45amWhile we're waiting for play to resume, let's have a look at some of the stats from this match. Li's more aggressive approach to the game is reflected in the number. The Chinese player has 29 winners to Azarenka's 12, but she also has a greater number of unforced errors.

10.46amOn average, Li has had to faster serve of the two players, but the quickest serve of the match came from the world number one, at 173kph.

10.49amAzarenka is back on the court and is doing stretches, so it looks like whatever she needed to trainer for isn't causing her too much concern.

10.50amThe fireworks display is over, and play is ready to resume, with Azarenka on serve.

10.51amLi Na has taken a tumble again and looks in a great deal of pain.

10.52amThe sixth seed also gave her head a bash on the way down. She's sitting up but hasn't been able to stand up yet, and medics surround her again.

10.53amIt looks like it was the ankle she injured during the second set that collapsed from under her, but she's up and seems to be walking alright.

10.54amLi is taking a medical timeout. The doctor is concerned about the hit to her head. It did look like she made quite a heavy contact with the court. The doctor is making her do a number of head tilts and turns to make sure she's not injured.

10.56amIt doesn't look like she's too concerned about her ankle. She's put her hair back up and reattached her visor. It's all smiles from the Chinese player so it looks like she's been cleared to continue.

10.57amIt looks like Li is ready to continue. Once again, Azarenka was hitting balls throughout the break to keep herself warm.

Azarenka 4-6 6-4 2-2* LiLi fights back from 30-0 down to earn a break point, but a sensational cross-court forehand from the Belarusian takes the game to deuce. The sixth seed seems to mis-read a slow serve from Azarenka, and she goes on to take the game. It feels like a long time since the last game finished!

10.01amThe good news for Li is that she still seems to have a good range of movement in her injured ankle, despite two nasty falls on it.

Azarenka 4-6 6-4 *3-2 LiBREAK! A double fault and a couple of mis-hit forehands from Li give Azarenka two break points. It looks like Li has saved the first when Azarenka fires the ball long, but a challenge reveals it was in. The reigning champion is unhappy that she isn't awarded the point, but the crowd, who are still firmly behind Li, boo as she argues with the umpire and she lets it go, before playing a brilliant volley to take the game on the next point.

Azarenka 4-6 6-4 4-2* LiIt's a good service game from Azarenka. It looks like the break in the previous game has lifted the reigning champion, as she keeps Li off the score board against her serve.

Azarenka 4-6 6-4 *4-3 LiAzarenka starts the game well with a great return, but Li dig deep to find a series of powerful serves, which help her to a 40-15 lead. She closes a rally with a superbly-struck backhand, leaving herself just one break down.

11.14amIt really is difficult to tell which player is on top at the moment. The momentum seems to shift every couple of points. After a brilliant service game, it looked like Azarenka was going to storm the third set, but Li doesn't look like she's ready to give in yet.

Azarenka 4-6 6-4 5-3* LiAt 30-30, the pair get in to a lengthy rally. Li loops the ball high, and Azarenka must have lost track of it along the way as she mis-hits it, and it finds the net to give the sixth seed a break point. A wide ball on the next point takes the game to deuce though, before Azarenka lands a stunning forehand stroke just inside the sideline. A well-placed serve from the reigning champion is too good for Li to return, and the world number one if just one game away from keeping the title.

11.23amAzarenka has a championship point.

11.24amGAME, SET AND MATCH! Azarenka 4-6 6-4 6-3 Li

11.25amAzarenka breaks down in tears as she retains her Australian Open title, in a gruelling three-set encounter with Li Na.

11.27amAzarenka looked keen to take the match against the Li serve as she was on the attack from the start of the game. She played some fantastic shots in another long rally to take the game to deuce. A couple of mistakes from Li allow the world number one to keep her title for another year.

11.28amThe Chinese player did well to keep the match competitive after sustaining what looked like a painful injury at the start of the second set. It didn't seem to hinder her too much until the last couple of games.

11.30amThat's all from the women's final at the Australian Open. Stick around for reaction to Azarenka's win, and make sure you join us again tomorrow, as Andy Murray takes on Novak Djokovic in the men's final. Until then, thanks for joining us this morning, good bye.

Victoria Azarenka from Belarus celebrates defeating Monica Niculescu in the first round of the  Australian Open tennis championship on January 15, 2013
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