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Azarenka wins Australian Open

Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:53:08 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 26 2013 06:16:43 AM CST
azarenka

Daniel Munoz / Reuters

MELBOURNE -

A tearful Victoria Azarenka retained her Australian Open title and world No. 1 ranking after overcoming crowd favorite Li Na in a dramatic women's final on Saturday.

The 23-year-old broke down as she celebrated her second grand slam title, denying her Chinese opponent her second after coming from behind to triumph 4-6 6-4 6-3.

The Belorussian went into the match having upset local fans after taking a controversial 10-minute medical break during a key point of her semifinal win over American teen Sloane Stephens, but this time she was forced to wait as Li twice had to receive lengthy treatment.

The match was also interrupted in the deciding set by a break for the traditional Australia Day fireworks.

Li, the losing finalist in 2011, raced to a 5-2 lead in the opening set as she made a strong bid to add to her French Open title that same year -- a breakthrough win that made her the first Asian female to win a grand slam singles title.

However, she was unable to show the same control that had allowed her to thrash world No. 2 Maria Sharapova in straight sets in the semifinals.

Azarenka led 3-0 in the second set, then sixth-ranked Li went over on her ankle after winning the next game.

It looked like it might bring the final to a premature end but the 30-year-old got back on court after having her foot strapped and reduced the deficit further.

However, Azarenka rallied to take the set and then broke Li's serve to lead 1-0 in the third set.

Li broke back and then led 2-1 before the fireworks started in celebration of 225 years since the first fleet of colonists arrived from the UK.

It was an inopportune break for Li, who again went over on her ankle and banged her head on the court as she tried to protect her damaged foot.

She needed more treatment but was unable to maintain momentum and Azarenka broke her serve to lead 3-2 -- the 15th break in just 27 games of an error-strewn match -- and went on to clinch the victory that denied Serena Williams a return to the No. 1 spot.

Her more consistent approach paid off as Li paid for making 57 unforced errors to 27 despite making 36 winners to Azarenka's 18.

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