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Na powers past Cibulkova to finally win in Melbourne

ESPN staff
January 25, 2014
At last: Na celebrates winning an Australian Open final at the third attempt © AP
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Li Na finally has the grand slam she has been craving for as she overpowered a nerve-racked Dominika Cibulkova to win the Australian Open title.

Li, who turns 32 next month and becomes the oldest woman to clinch the Melbourne slam in the Open era, lost Australian Open finals to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Victoria Azarenka last year. In between, she won the 2011 French Open to become the first Chinese woman to win a major.

In both her previous Australian Open appearances, Li won the first set but went down in three. Against Azarenka last year, she stumbled and twisted her ankle, and needed a medical timeout after hitting her head on the court.

She had no such trouble against No. 20-seeded Cibulkova, going on a roll to win the last six games.

The first set lasted 70 minutes, including two exchanges of service breaks and some nervous moments for Li, who was struggling with her first serve.

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The diminutive Cibulkova, one of the shortest players ever to reach a grand slam final at 5'3", had four wins over top 20 players in the tournament, including a fourth-round upset of third-seeded Maria Sharapova and a straight-sets semi-final trouncing of No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska.

Li opened with wins over the two youngest players in the tournament, then saved a match point in her third-round win over Lucie Safarova. In the semi-finals, she held off 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, and never had to face a player ranked in the top 20 en route to the final.

Li was in typically good form when she was handed the microphone.

"Finally I got her," she said as she put a hand on the Daphne Akhurst trophy for the first time as Australian Open women's champion.

"First of all, congratulations to Dominika. She had a brilliant tournament and she will win a slam at some point, no doubt. I have to thank my team for keeping me fit, keeping me motivated and keeping me going when I wanted to quit.

"I must also thank my husband. You are a nice guy and, of course, you are very lucky to have me.

"And thanks to Max, my agent, for making me rich.

"I know you think I talk too much - but I have to say one more thing. A huge thank you to the fans here in Melbourne. You always make us feel so welcome and we're very grateful for it."

A far more subdued Cibulkova said: "This has just been a fantastic two weeks of my life. I don't really know where to start but I'm definitely going to cry.

"I would like to congratulate Li Na. She had a great tournament and really deserves this win."

Nowhere to hide: Cibulkova held her own in the first set, but was eventually overpowered by Na © Getty Images
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