Australian Open 2013: Victoria Azarenka v Li Na as it happened

Victoria Azarenka defends her Australian Open title with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 win against China's Li Na.

26 January 2013 Last updated at 11:51 GMT

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As it happened

  1. 1147: 

    Time for us to wave you goodbye, I'm afraid. Azarenka is off to celebrate winning her second Grand Slam. Li will probably need a hug from her other half after experiencing defeat in the Australian Open final for the second time. Thank you for your contributions. There will be more live text commentary on Sunday for you know what.

    John Lloyd, BBC Two

    "You could see that all the emotion flowed out in that speech and she had so much to deal with in this match with Li Na's injuries as well. Li Na had the greater weapons with her backhand firing, but Victoria was just tougher mentally. She is such a great competitor."

  3. 1142: 

    The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup is placed in Azarenka's hands for the second consecutive year to rubber-stamp her position as the best female tennis player on the planet. "All the fans, thank you so much for all your support," says the champion. "I will always keep a very special memory of this court and you will be in my heart forever. The last thing I want to say is Happy Australia Day." The crowd seem content, whooping and hollering as Azarenka lifts the trophy towards the night sky.

  4. 1138: 

    Flashbulbs popping like fireflies in the half-light as Li Na steps up to accept her consolation prise. "First of all I would offer my congratulations to Victoria," says Li. She tells us she hated her team two weeks ago "because they pushing me so hard". The camera finds her husband, who is giggling in his seat. "I look forward to seeing you next year," she adds.


    Justin in Swansea via text: "Shame on you Australia. Azarenka destroyed Sloane Stephens so it made no difference and has been amazing all tournament. She deserves this just for having to beat not only her opponent but a whole crowd as well."


    Ross Parker on Twitter: "Strange game, not the greatest of quality from Azarenka & Na. Li Na wont have a better chance of winning an Australian Open title."

    Tim Purcell on Twitter: "Congrats to Azarenka - champions know how to grind out a win despite distractions and form."

  7. 1134: 

    Azarenka and Li share a joke as the presentation gets under way. Steve Healy, president of tennis Australia, takes to the mic after Margaret Court is introduced to the crowd. All sorts of sponsors receiving a special mention, as is the Victorian government...

  8. 1133: 

    The tears perhaps a way for Azarenka to release the tension of the pre-match hoopla. The 23-year-old walks towards her camp, still sobbing. A pat on the arm from a familiar face offers some comfort to the Australian Open champion. Li watches Azarenka put her signature on all sorts of paraphernalia and then the defeated finalist shakes her head, perhaps remembering the opportunities that slipped her by.

    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "It was not the greatest tennis match by any means, but Azarenka showed her fighting spirit by coming through a tough few days off the court and a scrappy evening on it with her second Grand Slam title, and world number one spot intact. As a spectacle, the fireworks and Li Na's tumbles will live longest in the memory. And the potential of an imminent Richie McCaw-Redfoo meeting..."

    Andrew Castle, BBC Two

    "She had to work so hard for sets two and three. She is not a favourite with the crowd and that affected her. She deserves it for her strength of character."

    John Lloyd, BBC Two

    "Victoria Azarenka is a warrior. It has been very rough for her, but it has been a tremendous effort tonight. It has been very gutsy. It has not been the best quality match, but it was enthralling."

  12. 1126: 

    Azarenka heads towards her chair, eyes filling with tears. She plonks herself on her seat and hides her face in her towel, sobbing as the emotion of the occasion overcomes her.

    GAME, SET AND MATCH- *Azarenka 4-6 6-4 6-3 Li

    Li's husband, Jiang Shan, looks slightly concerned when the score is at 30-30. Some members of the audience seem to be watching from the lattice of their fingers as Li drags a forehand agonisingly wide for championship point. Her first serve misses the target... Azarenka returns a tame second and Li's only response is to biff a forehand long.

    Azarenka 4-6 6-4 5-3 Li*

    So far in this match each finalist has made holding serve seem as strenuous an exercise as climbing Everest in stilettos. The shrieking Azarenka draws level at 30-30, but Li has been to the Miyagi school of defending and patiently fetches and retrieves until Azarenka buffs an attempted overhead volley into the tape for break point. Li squanders her chance, though, and Azarenka is a game from victory. A game from the championship.

    *Azarenka 4-6 6-4 4-3 Li

    An admirable riposte from Li and thunderous roars greet a fine service game from the woman bidding to win this tournament for the first time. She steadies the nerves with a serve into Azarenka's ribcage and follows that up with two canny forehand winners. Bravo.

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "I think the crowd used that discussion with the umpire to give vent to some of what they think of Victoria Azarenka."

    Azarenka 4-6 6-4 4-2 Li*

    An imperious service game from Azarenka and it's her opponent who is on the brink, dangling from the precipice by her fingernails.

    Andrew Castle, BBC Two

    "This is where tennis needs to sort itself out. That was exactly the same situation as yesterday with Murray and Federer and the player - Federer - who hit the groundstroke was given the point. Today they replay it. You know full well Li Na was not affected by the call. It gets to me, that."

    *Azarenka 4-6 6-4 3-2 Li

    The spectators seem to nervously shuffle in their seats as Li ratchets a fifth double fault of the match to give Azarenka a glimmer. Azarenka has the opportunity to stride from the dark tunnel she has been trapped in for most of the match as Li duffs a forehand long. A bit of controversy as a line judge wrongly adjudges that Azarenka's forehand had drifted long, but the world number one remains composed, grumbling ever so slightly. It matters little anyway as Azarenka breaks. Victory is within sight if she can just hold on.


    Ste Ashurst on Twitter: "If she knows where she is she's fine. Tell her she's Steffi Graf."

    Jonathan Overend, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "Victoria Azarenka does not help herself sometimes. When Li Na went down at the opposite end, the umpire and the trainer were down looking after her while Azarenka was still at the net. Then when Li was getting treatment, Azarenka got permission to practice a few forehands and backhands. She is very personable but I just think she puts her foot in too many times."

    Azarenka 4-6 6-4 2-2 Li*

    Li seems as sanguine as ever, nodding her head as she listens carefully to the doc. A beaming smile from the sixth seed, warm applause from the jam-packed crowd, as she purposefully walks towards the baseline to prepare to face whatever Azarenka throws her way. Li, battered and bruised, still manages to bully Azarenka from the back of the court - two fearsome forehands earning her a break point. Azarenka wriggles free, though, moving Li this way and that before a forehand down the line acts as an angry full stop.

    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "Li Na takes another tumble and there's a collective wince when it's replayed on the big screen, showing she rolled the left ankle again and smacked her head in falling. The trainer is back, it's another timeout, Azarenka is practising serves... you know the drill."

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "That was the last thing that you would want to see. She was reluctant to put her weight on the ankle as she went out wide and the upper half of her body was still travelling too fast. She will have lost a bit of confidence in her body."

  25. 1055: 

    "Ladies and gentleman, Li is taking a medical timeout," the umpire informs the fans. Three minutes to ensure the 2011 French Open champion is in fine fettle.

  26. 1052: 

    The players take their positions but Li is back on the canvas, her head hitting the floor with some ferocity as her ankle buckles from underneath her while attempting a forehand winner down the line. The sixth seed is smiling as the doctor asks her where she is. Just say Melbourne, Li, just say Melbourne.

  27. 1050: 

    I'm pleased to inform you that Azareka has returned and is currently glugging some water. The evening sky awash in puffs of red and blue smoke. Li removing her tracksuit top which suggests the fireworks will soon be over. And so they do end. Whistles and whoops from a satisfied crowd.


    Ray Bellwhiff on Twitter: "Would love to see more variety in this Aussie Open Final. Where are the drop shots, slices, net play and lobs?"

    John Inverdale, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "There are some who say that if you have seen one firework display you have seen them all. But the smell is quite marvellous when you have a big one like this."

    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "We now have fireworks lighting up the sky as a nation celebrates, and two tennis players test the warming capacity of a towel. Hang on, Azarenka is heading off court while no-one is looking. It's either a comfort break or she's scared of fireworks. They are quite loud."

  31. 1044: 

    The finalists stride towards their chairs as the Melbourne sky is lit up by an array of impressive pyrotechnics. Whoosh, swish, rat-a-tat-tat they go - and so on and so on. Azareka has left the stage. She'll be back in 10 minutes.


    Bobby McCarthy on Twitter: "The way this AusOpen crowd are acting toward Azarenka is tantamount to mass-bullying. It makes me want Li Na to lose."

    Ben Ruddle on Twitter: "Lots of people complaining about anti-Azarenka attitude, but bad sportsmanship from the crowd is just following that of Azarenka."

    Jonathan Harding on Twitter: "Against her as they are, Azarenka is playing the role of Maximus Meridius here in this tennis colosseum."

    *Azarenka 4-6 6-4 1-2 Li

    The sixth seed races to within a point of holding like a hyperactive auctioneer. Going... going... gone. Game to the lady from China, dressed in a white T-shirt and Ribena-purple bandana thanks to a crackerjack of an ace out to the wings.


    Larry McCloskey on Twitter: "I really hope Redfoo turns up in the Royal box at Wimbledon this year. "Your majesty, may I introduce Mr Redfoo."

    Adam Wright on Twitter: "I think Redfoo is wearing the fancy dress pimp suit I wore on Foz's stag do."

    Azarenka 4-6 6-4 1-1 Li

    Apparently it's nigh on impossible for a professional tennis player to hold serve. Someone hold serve, please. A mixed game from Li, sending forehands biffing here, there and everywhere before unleashing fabulous winners for break point. A double fault from Azarenka ensures another game ends with a whimper. Six minutes until the fireworks! And breathe...

    John Inverdale, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "Fireworks are apparently 10 minutes away now. I am beyond excited."

    *Azarenka 4-6 6-4 1-0 Li

    Li teetering as another wild forehand allows Azarenka to sneak ahead to 0-30, and another poor forehand presents the resilient Belarusian with two break points. Azarenka, who will remain world number one if she defends her title, grabs her opportunity by dashing to the net, sending a formidable volley whizzing beyond Li.

    John Lloyd, BBC Two

    "It's a strange match. Li Na had the momentum and was looking to get ahead and then she played an awful game again, spraying four errors. When she goes off, she tends to go off in bunches of points."

    GAME AND SECOND SET- Azarenka 4-6 6-4 Li*

    Azarenka, purple bandana, coquettishly fiddles with her ponytail before sending the yellow ball into the night sky and launching down a humdinger of a serve which Li can only direct into the barrier. Three set points - and the 23-year-old doesn't flinch, Li sending another forehand careering wide.

    John Inverdale, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "This may not be the highest quality match ever played on the Rod Laver Arena, but it is so compelling because of the sub plots that are flowing underneath it all."

    *Azarenka 4-6 5-4 Li

    Azarenka can only turn away, nervously tamper with her racquet strings, after Li unleashes an irretrievable forehand winner into the corner. There's no need for the world number one to be so glum, however, even if it seems the world is against her. Li's errors gift Azarenka two break points and the Chinese star's radar is malfunctioning a touch as she directs another forehand beyond the baseline. A terrible game from Li.

    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "Celeb developments - Redfoo is onto version four of his outdoor apparel, currently leopardskin, making him blend in as much as a leopard would on a tennis court. And All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is about 20ft away. He's not wearing a coat, obviously."


    Tim Purcell on Twitter: "Azarenka looks like she's dressed for a day of pre-spring cleaning rather than a grand slam final."

    #bbctennis is the place for your tweets.

    Azarenka 4-6 4-4 Li*

    As tense as this match has been we're still waiting for the players to explode into action. Azarenka scurries towards the net to tap away a deep volley for 15-30, but a poorly executed drop shot presents Li with two break points. The defending champion's chin drops. "Out" yelps a linesman as Azarenka's forehand bounces long. Hawkeye confirms it was the correct decision. Manic roars from the spectators. Azarenka seems close to tears.

    John Inverdale, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "Apparently the tennis authorities are in liaison with the firework authorities and intend to have the fireworks at the end of the second set. However, there is a cut-off point - it has to be in the next 20 minutes."

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live

    "If Victoria Azarenka is smart, she will be trying to get Li Na running as far as possible to test how bad this injury really is. She needs to change things up a little bit, perhaps throw in the odd drop-shot to she how she is coming forward."

    Andrew Castle, BBC Two

    "What's intriguing about this match is you have absolutely no idea what will happen next. It's not serve dominated. It's a battle of wills."

    *Azarenka 4-6 4-3 Li

    Li performing at mobility scooter pace as two double faults gift Azarenka two break points. Luckily for Melbourne's sweetheart the woman racing her for the title is no Harley Davidson. The gauge showing Azarenka's tank is barely half full. A faulty backhand from the world number one trickles the net and the sixth seed overhauls her with a sumptuous forehand down the line, which is, predictably, greeted by wild roars.

    Azarenka 4-6 4-2 Li*

    A wry smile from Li as Azarenka lazily sends an overhead volley into the tramlines. The wonders of a medical time out, eh. Li wins her fifth point on the trot since receiving treatment on her ankle and bags three break points. "Thank you," the umpire says, somewhat sarcastically, as a member of the audience bellows something or other as Azarenka prepares for her second serve. Li, with the court at her mercy, swings for a backhand winner but it can only find the tape and somehow, through tenacity and sheer willpower, Azarenka holds.


    Zach Kingsbury on Twitter: "Medical timeout? With Azarenka on court? The irony."

    #bbctennis is the place for your tweets. 81111 is the number for your texts from UK mobiles, remember to put a name on them.

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "I want to go and get some of that tape because whatever is on it has been magic for Li Na."

    *Azarenka 4-6 3-2 Li

    So, where were we? Ah, yes, Melbourne. Australian Open final. A lame Li serving. The 30-year-old moving, if not like a panther, then with ease and holds with little fuss. Her backhand has been a wondrous weapon so far in this match.

  53. 1002: 

    Azarenka has donned her hoodie and decided to use the timeout to practise her serves, which is probably wise considering the world number one has only won 38% of points on her first serve and 33% on her second. Plenty of bandage on Li's ankle. Her husband biting his fingernails. Seems like she'll be on her feet and dancing pretty soon.

    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "Worrying moments as Li requires treatment after slipping at the baseline, no jeering this medical timeout from the crowd. The large Chinese contingent in the press box is up and peering anxiously, some taking photos. I spoke to a Chinese journalist earlier and asked if the 116m people who watched her win the French Open in 2011 would be matched this time. "Oh, there will probably be more now," he said. That's more than read this live text."

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "It doesn't look very good, she is barely putting any weight it. When you roll an ankle you immediately get a sharp pain, but it is difficult to assess the full severity straightaway."

    *Azarenka 4-6 3-1 Li

    Li's eyes widen, she has the smell of a comeback in her nostrils. Oof. Hang on. Azarenka sends her opponent hither and tither - and Li, at the baseline, falls awkwardly while attempting a swift change of direction. The crowd favourite, grimacing, wincing, limps towards her chair, helped by a kind lady. How much of a medical timeout will she require? Tickety-tock.

    Azarenka 4-6 3-1 Li*

    Just when Azarenka thought it was safe to prepare for the third set Li grabs a break with another razzle-dazzle of a forehand. A poor service game from the defending champion, conceding with a whimper.


    Adrian Tang on Twitter: "Some of the shot making by Li Na is out of this world. Making world number 1 look poor."

    ACW on Twitter: "Ranking system isn't crazy at all, azarenka is defending lots of points, Serena gained more points than 2012 #notcrazy."

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "It is terrific the way that Victoria Azarenka holds the baseline like she does, but it means that when Li Na does hit short of perfect length she is reduced to playing a half-volley. There is little margin for error from there."

    *Azarenka 4-6 3-0 Li

    Li working the crowd like a music hall star. She sends Azarenka lunging from tramline to tramline before sprinting towards the net, a sumptuous volley ending a beautifully crafted point. Needless errors blighting Li's game, though, and Azarenka sends Li scampering with a forehand deep into her rival's forehand corner. A double break. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a contest on our hands.


    First set stats:

    Aces: Azarenka 0 Li 2. Double faults: Azarenka 1-1 Li. First serves in: Azarenka 73% Li 73%. First serve points won: Azarenka 38% Li 46%. Break points won: Azarenka 3/4 Li 3/4. Winners: Azarenka 2 Li 9. Errors: Azarenka 10-17 Li

    Azarenka 4-6 2-0 Li*

    A rare ace suggests the pendulum might swing back in Azarenka's direction, but Li dashes towards the net to unleash a fearsome crosscourt forehand winner - her 14th winner of the match. A double fault gives Azarenka's opponent a sniff at break point. A crackerjack of a serve out wide, full of menace and spin, followed by a pin-point forehand winner settles Azarenka's frayed nerves.

    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "A pretty scrappy first set with 32 to 16 winners ends, appropriately, with a double-fault. Li's ability to hit winners is just giving her the edge and she's all over the Azarenka serve. Meanwhile, I can hear poor old Redfoo's [Azarenka's friend] teeth chattering from here. He's onto his second coat of the evening already."

    *Azarenka 4-6 1-0 Li

    A mixture of brilliance and carelessness from Li. For every backhand which grazes the line there's one that sails into the tramlines. Azarenka, feet beginning to dance in unison, is gifted an easy break when another ill-judged backhand from Li sails wide.


    Tom Spencer on Twitter: "So if the world number 1 loses she drops to 2nd in the world behind someone who was knocked out in the quarters?! #crazy"

    Luke Thomas on Twitter: "Sport is half about the mind; Li hasn't believed. Serena's strength is her iron clad belief. Henin's came and went."

    #bbctennis is the place for your tweets, 81111 for your texts from UK mobiles.

    GAME AND FIRST SET- Azarenka 4-6 Li*

    Every error from Azarenka's racquet being greeted by uncommonly loud applause - and there have been 14 so far from her usually trusted weapon. The reigning champion is on the canvas, a snappy forehand winner earning Li a break point, but Azarenka jumps back onto her feet with a wonderful passing forehand for advantage. Unfortunately for Azarenka, Li's forehand is on song. A second set point... a dash to the net and danger is averted - but only momentarily. China's finest ends a megatron rally with a sumptuous backhand winner. Third set point... fourth set point... and a double fault ensures Azarenka's attempted comeback collapses like a soufflé.


    Times tennis correspondent Neil Harman on Twitter: "The Rodriguez magic working on Li Na. She is such a confident ball striker. Crowd totally on her side as well. Might as well be in Beijing."

    *Azarenka 4-5 Li

    How will Li cope with serving for the set? Um, not very well. A touch too much venom on a backhand awards Azarenka a hat-trick of break points and the 30-year-old crumbles, a Li backhand into the tape the cherry on the parfait for the defending champ.

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "Li Na has got a huge amount of strength - she takes the ball very early in front of her and gets a full rotation with her shoulders and hips coming through. It is all timing and technique - it is like a golfer. When Ernie Els hits some of them you think he has just stroked it and then it won't come down for a couple of minutes."


    Bibhash Dash on Twitter: "How has Li only won one Grand Slam title? She is dominating out there. Easy to say Azarenka's not in right frame but Li's strokes are pure class."

    Azarenka 3-5 Li*

    Thirty minutes into the match and Azarenka finally - finally - wins a point on her second serve. The force of Li's groundstrokes pushing the world number one onto her heels, but the 23-year-old's serve gets her out of trouble. Li can only get a bit of graphite on a booming serve into the wings and it's an iffy hold.

    John Lloyd, BBC Two

    On Azarenka, who in the aftermath of "timeout-gate", is quick to apologise for a wayward shot at Li Na: "I didn't think this would have much effect on her because she's such a fighter and tough but I think it is having an effect. She hasn't settled at all."


    Angus McPhail on Twitter: "Never seen Aussie Open crowd so against someone before the match even started, let alone during the match!"

    #bbctennis is the place for your tweets, 81111 for your texts from UK mobiles.

    *Azarenka 2-5 Li

    The defending champion seems to have retreated into her shell. She attempts to peek out with a driving volley - but hawkeye shows the shot bounced into the tramlines by some distance. Roars from the Melbourne crowd. Another humdinger of a forehand from Li wraps up the game and a lugubrious Azarenka has gone into hibernation.

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "Li Na is playing all the aggressive tennis, she is standing right inside the baseline for Azarenka's second serve and following her return into the net. Azarenka plays with a very flat trajectory and when it is 'on' it is unplayable, but it only needs little error in the angle of the racquet head to send it into the net or over the baseline."

    Azarenka 2-4 Li*

    Azarenka celebrated breaking her opponent with a manic roar, but her efforts were all for nothing it seems. Nadda. Zilch. Li has three break points, and a dipping backhand grazes the paint to secure the break. That was in by 0.00001mm. More chance of fish learning to climb trees than Azarenka holding serve.


    Jamie Scott on Twitter: "Azarenka's anxiety after missing those match points against Stephens was surely due to memories of serving for US Open & losing."

    Zach Kingsbury on Twitter: "Australian crowd being rather unfair towards Azarenka here."

    #bbctennis is the place for your tweets, 81111 for your texts from UK mobiles.

    *Azarenka 2-3 Li

    Li, momentum swinging her way and the crowd firmly on her side, nudges a point away from holding serve with a colossal ace out to the wings, but a bumptious overhead smash bounces well wide and we're at deuce. Fears that anxiety might be crippling the 23-year-old Azarenka are greatly exaggerated, however, as the maverick from Minsk secures a break thanks to a lazy backhand from Li.

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "I think that Victoria Azarenka will be perfectly able to cope with the atmosphere. When they play Federation Cup matches, they often come up against fierce crowds when they play away from home."

    Azarenka 1-3 Li*

    Azarenka opens with a double fault and a cluster of ticket holders deem it appropriate to applaud. The defending champion has yet to find her sparkle, while Li's forehand is beginning to bite. Two break points for Li thanks to a crackerjack of a forehand winner down the line and Azarenka can only respond by sending a backhand into the net.


    To follow Azarenka v Li while you're out and about:

    iPhone users can watch via the new @BBCSport app (available free on iTunes) or through BBC mobile site

    Android users can watch through the BBC mobile site here - - video here #bbctennis

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "Li Na's footwork is excellent, opening up her shoulders and using Azarenka's power to direct the ball back past the Belarusian. She has a great purity in her ball-striking."

    *Azarenka 1-2 Li

    A nervy start from both players, which is understandable considering the circumstances. A cool ace into the wings eases Li's nerves, but she squanders her advantage by biffing another forehand long. A sizzling forehand from the 30-year-old is followed by a whimper of a backhand. Eventually, though, she holds when her opponent's backhand fails to sail over the tape. A first hold of the match!


    Tom Coldwell on Twitter: "Pretty sure I'm the only person who likes Azarenka more for her gamesmanship against Sloane Stephens. C'mon Vicky!"

    #bbctennis is the place to send your tweets or you can get involved by sending a text from your UK mobile to 81111.

    Azarenka 1-1 Li*

    A wise guy shouts something from the cheaper seats as Azarenka, needing to overcome a 0-30 deficit, prepares to serve but the heckling affects her not one jot as she reels in her opponent. Although, saying that, the world number one must now defend a break point and fails to do so, tamely plonking a forehand into the net. Two games. Two breaks of serves. As you were.

    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "A polite round of applause for the introduction Victoria Azarenka, I think it's fair to say, moments after the crowd get a Li Na chant going. It could be a tough evening for the Belarusian in that sense, but she's not the world number one for nothing and will cope OK with that. Her opponent might prove trickier if Li can reproduce the form that demolished Sharapova's chances. There's also a fair bit of wintry clothing being put on, and a few grey clouds pondering their next move above."

    *Azarenka 1-0 Li

    Sharapova's conqueror gets the tournament under way with a double fault and a nervous ripple filters around the arena. Rip-roaring cheers as the sixth seed levels at 15-15 and even louder as she ekes a 30-15 advantage. The jam-packed crowd firmly in the Li camp, but two wayward forehands allow the defending champion to grab the first game.

    Jeremy Bates, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "I think that Li Na's passage puts her in good stead, having faced Maria Sharapova who hits the ball harder than Azarenka in the last round, but she also beat Agnieszka Radwanska, who never makes mistakes and she had to be really patient against. She has not been on court to long in winning those matches either."

    John Lloyd, BBC Two

    "I think Azarenka will just edge this in three sets. It's not so much weight of ball but I think she will get more balls back."

    Jonathan Overend, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "Li Na has been working with Justine Henin's former coach Carlos Rodriguez and, as we talk about Andy Murray's relationship with Ivan Llendl, and that is another relationship that has borne fruit."

  91. 0842: 

    "You know about the fireworks?" the umpires asks the finalists at the net. They nod. Their response is affirmative. Pyrotechnics at some point today apparently to celebrate Australia Day. Will let you know when that happens so you can tell your pets to stop reading this live text. Umpire has called time. We're set...

    Alastair Eykyn, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

    "Azarenka has a similar style to Maria Sharapova, but she will have to more accurate. Li Na is more of a counter puncher and will hope to soak up the pressure. The head to head shows a slight lead over Azarenka, but Li Na is ahead when you look at Grand Slam meetings."

  93. 0840: 

    While the players are limbering up there's just about enough time to tell you that Azarenka has won her previous four matches against Li, nudging 5-4 ahead in the head-to-heads. Should the 30-year-old Li triumph today she will not only become the oldest woman to win the tournament but become the first Asian to do so.

    John Lloyd, BBC Two

    On Victoria Azarenka's controversial 10-minute medical timeout against Sloane Stephens in the semi-final: "Sometimes if you get a bad injury you have to default. To keep your opponent waiting for nine minutes is not acceptable. The bottom line is they have to change the rules. No-one likes the crowd to be against you, like I think they will be for the majority of this match, but she will block that out."

  95. 0835: 

    Li, rucksack on her back, is first out on court and although China's star receives a warmer welcome than her opponent the atmosphere wasn't overly explosive for the arrival of the ponytailed Azarenka.

  96. 0833: 

    Li, revitalised by Justine Henin's former coach Carlos Rodriguez, and always a favourite of the Melbourne faithful, is keeping out of the brouhaha surrounding Azarenka's dramatics. Instead she has predicted she "should do better" than when she lost the final to Kim Clijsters in 2011. "This time, I'm more calm. More cool, a little bit," she says.


    Greg Rusedski on Twitter: "Li Na v Azarenka is going to be very interesting. Not sure who is going to win but think Li might just pip it in 3."

  98. 0826: 
    BBC coverage

    There's probably no need to remind you that you can watch the action live on BBC2 and on this very website. If radio is your thing then you can listen to live coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra. Of course, there's live text commentary which you must know about otherwise you wouldn't be reading these words.

  99. 0824: 

    Azarenka's integrity has been questioned over the last couple of days, but the pride of Belarus has defended her decision to leave the court with the resurgent Stephens serving to stay in the match. The 23-year-old explained during a 12-minute media interrogation how she was struggling to breathe, felt as if she was "going to have a heart attack" because of a rib injury, Fortunately for the reigning champion she isn't on a campaign to become as popular as lamingtons but is Down Under to win a second Grand Slam.


    Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim on Twitter: "Hearing Azarenka cried after the semis when she realized the kerfuffle. Said she misunderstood on-court questions..."

  101. 0818: 

    "Azarenka wants your compassion in the women's singles final against China's Li Na. Don't give it to her," one journalist has told his readers in The Australian. Poor Victoria. The world number one has been accused of unsportsmanlike behaviour, of gamesmanship, of "cheating within the rules" for her 10-minute medical timeout in the semi-final against Sloane Stephens. Whatever the conditions on Rod Laver Arena, a frosty reception awaits the enfant terrible from Minsk.

  102. 0814: 

    Hello and thank you for joining our live text coverage of the Australian Open women's final where good meets bad; where the toothpick eating, steely eyed, villainous defending champion takes on the sanguine people's darling in a Grand Slam rodeo. It's Melbourne versus Victoria.

  103. 0810: 

    Happy Australia Day! You'll be glad to hear there is a better way to celebrate our antipodean cousins' national day than listening to Craig McLachlan's Mona so cancel the download or turn the volume down on your ghetto blaster - throw that Now 1990 cassette out of the window. Do whatever is necessary to stop the overpowering temptation of McLachlan because there is no need for any of that. None at all.

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Australian Open: 14-27 January

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