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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Australian Open: Clijsters needed rethink to beat Li Na


A mid-match rethink helped Kim Clijsters battle back to victory in the Australian Open final against Li Na.

The 27-year-old Belgian struggled to find her rhythm for more than a set at the Rod Laver Arena on Saturday.

But a change in tack saw Clijsters claim the second set before running through the decider to complete a 3-6 6-3 6-3 win over 28-year-old Li.

"I tried to do things differently to break her rhythm a little bit and make her think a little bit more," she said.

"I mixed it up a little bit, put some slices in, also hit a few higher shots and it made her make some unforced errors.

"And then she got a little bit aggravated and I just tried to hang in there."

Li, who was aiming to become the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles crown, sealed the first set with a fine forehand winner.

"She did everything better than me in that first set," said Clijsters.

"Her ground strokes were heavier, deeper, she served better and she returned better.

"She was playing really well, probably the best she has ever played against me."

But Li was upset by her own supporters midway through the second set, when she claimed they were trying to tell her what to do mid-point, and the switch in momentum began to turn Clijsters' way.

Afterwards, Li said: "I don't know why after I got to the final I had so many Chinese coaches on the court.

"Of course they want me to win the match but they were trying to coach me how to play tennis."

Clijsters broke for 4-3 and again to level the match and at the change-over, Li complained for the third time to the umpire about crowd interference.

It continued to bother Li as she was broken to go 3-1 down in the third before Clijsters held twice to get to 5-2 and then take the set 6-3.

After the match, three-times US Open champion Clijsters admitted she was overwhelmed when Li put the ball wide on match point.

"What gets you is that it's so intense until that last shot and then all of a sudden it's finished, then it's just a big relief," she added.

"The disbelief too that it's over and the fact I was able to turn it around is what makes it so special."


Clijsters, a beaten finalist in Melbourne in 2004, added that she was delighted to finally win the Australian title having come close to clinching it before.

"I will enjoy this win, especially here in Australia," she said. "It's a country which I have always loved coming to and where I have always been well-received.

"I have been close to doing it for a few years so it's nice to finally get it this year."

Li also took the positives from a tournament in which she made history by becoming China's first Grand Slam singles finalist.

"I thought I played some great tennis tonight," she said. "But she played better than me.

"I am still happy with what I did today and proud of myself.

"But she had more experience than me because she has played in more finals.

Hopefully if I can play in another final I will do better."

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