Here was my comment, sort of a fearless forecast, on a Facebook post made by my real-life friend, Julie Chung Wilmer, who now resides in Vietnam with her husband and a 12-year old son. (The three of them love to play tennis.)
“I thought all along that Federer was back to his form and shape but Nadal is just too good for him. Between Nadal and Wawrinka? I can’t make a good guess at this point. Nadal is a raging bull on the tennis court, but Wawrinka enters Rod Laver Arena with very high level of confidence after subduing Djokovic and Berdych.”
“Between Li Na and Cebulkova, I will go for the more experienced Li Na. Cebulkova, like Genie Bouchard, still has a lot to learn in the school of Tennis. I must admit though that Cebulkova is a tough one to beat here.” Or that was what I had thought. The first set indeed showed a tough Cebulkova by giving Li Na a run for her money in that hotly contested tie-breaker. The second set though was a bit different. Li Na was playing a well calculated game and most of the time she had set up the less experienced Cebulkova who did not win a game in the second set. Li Na took the Melbourne crown in straight sets 7-6, 6-0. This made her the first Asian to win the Australian Open grand slam tournament.
China’s Li Na has won her maiden Australian Open women’s singles title, defeating Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 7-6(3) 6-0 at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night for her second Grand Slam title.
It was a case of third time lucky for the 31-year-old fourth seed, who lost the 2011 Melbourne Park final to Kim Clijsters and again last year to Victoria Azarenka.
The title is Li’s second major after her breakthrough success at Roland Garros in 2011, and extended her unbeaten run over 20th seed Cibulkova to five consecutive matches for the loss of just a single set.
In winning her ninth career title, Li will rise to No. 3 in the world rankings on Monday. She becomes the first woman over 30 years of age to win the Australian Open since Margaret Court in 1973.
While falling at the final hurdle, Cibulkova enjoyed a standout tournament in Melbourne, making her first major decider, surpassing her previous best Australian Open result of a fourth-round exit in 2009, and rising to No. 13 in next week’s world rankings.
Li recovered from dropping her serve when trying to close out the first set to dominate the tie-break 7-3, seemingly snapping Cibulkova’s resolve.
Li’s first serve percentage, which plummeted to 13 per cent for the opening part of the first set, gradually rose as the set went on, and she took command of the tie-break after sending an unreturnable serve down the middle for 5-1.
Cibulkova edged back with a brilliant forehand passing shot for 3-5, but Li held her nerve, forcing two backhand errors from the Slovakian to round out a tense set that lasted 70 minutes. Li’s high unforced error count for the first set (25) was partially offset by her 22 winners, while Cibulkova served six costly double-faults after clawing back from an early 2-0 deficit.
Li took a stranglehold on the match early in the second set, two forehand winners putting pressure on Cibulkova in her first service game, which the Slovakian relinquished with a forehand error.
Li then raced through the remainder of the set, breaking Cibulkova three times and securing the title on her second match point when the Slovakian sent a final forehand long.
The second set lasted just 27 minutes, Li securing the match in an hour and 37 minutes.