After grueling matches in their respective events Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 26 & 27), tennis world no. 1 players Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka reclaimed their titles of the Australian Open.
For Djokovic, this is his fourth Australian Open title having won in 2008, 2011, 2012 and this year (2013). For Azarenka, this is her second Aussie grand slam title and her only major titles so far.
Novak Djokovic came up with his best tennis when it mattered most to reassert his grand slam dominance over Andy Murray on Sunday and become the first man to win three successive Australian Open titles in the professional era.
The Serbian world number one played 171 minutes of cat and mouse with his British rival before pouncing when the U.S. Open champion blinked and racing away to a 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-2 victory.
There was no ripping off of the shirt and no victory roar like Rod Laver Arena witnessed last year, but there was no disguising Djokovic’s delight at claiming a fourth title at Melbourne Park.
“What a joy, it’s an incredible feeling to win this trophy again. This is definitely my favorite grand slam. I love this tournament. I love this court, every tournament, especially the major tournaments, is very special (but) winning it three in a row, it’s incredible”, said Djokovic, who lost to Murray at the US Open in September last year.
In the women’s singles, Victoria Azarenka kept her eye firmly on the prize despite a host of distractions to rally from a set down and retain her title with victory over Li Na in a dramatic Australian Open final on Saturday (Jan. 26).
The Belarussian had to block out an often blatantly hostile crowd, sit through two lengthy timeouts for Li’s injuries and bide her time as a firework display lit up Melbourne’s skyline before she finally extinguished her Chinese rival’s hopes with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory.
Li twice needed treatment after heavy falls – the second time blacking out momentarily after banging her head on the court.
Azarenka looked stunned and then relieved at the end of the 160-minute contest when she realized she had won her second grand slam title, ensuring she would retain the number one world ranking.
Even in her moment of triumph, however, the lukewarm response of the crowd on Rod Laver Arena was a reminder of the controversy surrounding her semi-final win over Sloane Stephens.
“This one is way more emotional,” she said. “It’s gonna be extra special for me, for sure … you’re the only one who knows what you’ve been going through these two weeks. So it’s definitely an emotional one and it’s going to be special”, Azarenka said.
It was a second loss in a Melbourne Park final in three years for Li but the Chinese had been more concerned about her health after the second fall.
“I was a little bit worried when I fell down, my head hit the floor and for two seconds I couldn’t really see anything. It was totally black,” she said.
“So when the doctor and the physio-therapist came out on to the court, I sat up, but it took a long time to fully come around … I could hear this ringing in my ears.”
Azarenka’s controversial medical timeout in her victory over American Stephens – which left the Belarussian fending off allegations of gamesmanship – clearly won her few friends in Melbourne and there was no doubt who was the crowd favorite.
Former French Open champion Li had been roared on to court like a local hopeful and every point she won was greeted with huge applause, even on the many occasions that it derived from pure Azarenka error.
But, whatever it was, the Melbourne event was one of tennis’ bests where players faltered and failed while a few were crowned champions.