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With a squeal of delight, and tears of joy Kim Clijsters announced her maiden Australian Open victory at possibly her last appearance at Melbourne. In an engaging contest, the Belgian turned around what seemed to be a losing cause to first restore parity before easing through to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Clijsters was the firm favourite coming into the contest and her great grit and match toughness were on stark display here as she quelled a remarkable display by Li Na. The first time finalist, played a wonderful first set and looked in superb control but will have to wait a little bit longer to perhaps one day lift a Grand Slam title to make her the first Chinese to do so. This victory was special for Kim winning her first slam outside New York, finally getting her name engraved on the Daphne Ackhurst Trophy.
â€œAussie Kimâ€ was understandably thrilled about her victory, saying she was still shaking at what she had accomplished. She also in a typically Clijsters like style told little stories of a dentist who helped her with a chipped tooth and an uncle who wore lucky green pants as the reasons for her victory. She thanked her team and also congratulated Li Na for an excellent match and a superb contest. Li Na was gracious in defeat congratulating Clijsters for the victory and thanking her team, making special mention of her husband without excessive emotion.
The match started on a positive note for the Chinese, winning the toss and choosing to receive. However, it was Clijsters who took the early initiative, hit an ace right off the bat and raced off to a 2-0 lead. But Li Na gradually found her range on her groundstrokes and with her movement getting better pushed Clijsters beyond her preferred hitting limit, as she recovered to level the set at 2-2. This set the ball rolling and Li Na went from strength to strength bossing Clijsters, taking control of the court and in a bit of a surprise raised early visions of an upset taking the first set 6-3.
The second set started with Clijsters still under the gun but with an unmistakable intention to control the court. The intention was noble but with Li striking the ball as well as she was, implementing was not going to be easy. This told as the pair exchanged four consecutive breaks in the intial stages of the second set. Li Na was the first to hold and Clijsters' body language was not positive. Somehow though, that experience of having won 3 slams and being part of 7 prior slam finals, told as Clijsters found her range at the right time to take the next 4 games in a row to take the set 6-3.
Li Na at this stage was getting irritated with the umpire and the crowd. â€œThe Chinese are not trying to teach me play tennisâ€ she said to Alison Lang, the chair umpire in an argument about looking at her box regularly. She was also visibly frustrated with the crowd screaming during the points and complained to the umpire about that too.
Clijsters on the other hand was calm and composed and beginning to unlock the Chinese puzzle as she found a nice little moonball, drive combination that broke Li Na's rhythm and early in the third set, her serve. Getting accustomed to the pace on the Li Na groundstroke, and defending better, that little edge was all Clijsters needed as she kept her foot firmly on the pedal and advanced without nerves or a look back to her fourth slam and her first here in Melbourne 6-3.
It's been a magnificent couple of weeks for the Belgian as she backed her favourite tag, shrugged off any challenges that were thrown at her and found a wonderful mix of aggression and control to cement her position as the premier player on the women's tour. Caroline Wozniacki remains No.1 in the WTA rankings, but Clijsters who will move to No.2 on Monday morning is clearly the one to beat. Li Na has plenty of silver linings at the Open. She became the first Chinese woman to reach the final of a Grand Slam and if her display in the final is anything to go by, her ball striking and movement will undoubtedly give her chances to take that extra step some time in the near future. Not, though if a certain Belgian has anything to say about it.
 Kim Clijsters (BEL) def.  Li Na (CHN) 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
Also Read: Men's Final Report
Photograph Copyright: Australian Open
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