Azarenka secures back-to-back Australian titles

Updated 27 January 2013
0

Azarenka secures back-to-back Australian titles

MELBOURNE: Victoria Azarenka overcome an often hostile crowd to win back-to-back Australian Open titles, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a dramatic final yesterday that contained a break for fireworks, two medical timeouts and a nasty fall to the court by Li.
The Chinese star first tumbled to the court after twisting her left ankle, and had it taped after falling in the fifth game of the second set.
On the first point after a 10-minute pause in the third set while fireworks boomed overhead from nearby Australia Day celebrations, Li fell over again and slammed the back of her head into the court.
The 2011 French Open champion was treated immediately by a tournament doctor and had another time out before being allowed to resume the match. The second incident didn’t appear to affect Li’s movement.
Azarenka, who broke down in tears and sobbed into her towel when the match ended, won four of the next six games to claim her second major title and retain the No. 1 ranking.
“Unfortunately, you have to go through some rough patches to achieve great things. That’s what makes it so special for me,” she said. “I went through that, and I’m still able to kiss that beautiful trophy.” The win meant that Azarenka will maintain top spot and Serena Williams, who lost in the quarterfinals, will become the new No. 2 in the rankings.
On a crisp Saturday night, Azarenka won the coin toss and elected to receive, a ploy that seemed to work when a nervous Li was broken to start the match. After a double fault on the first point, Li’s forehand long gave Azarenka the early lead.
The 2-hour, 40-minute match featured 16 service breaks, with Li losing her service nine times.
When she first injured her ankle, Li was trailing 3-1 in the second set. When she came back, she won three of the next four games to level the set at 4-4, but Azarenka broke back and then her serve to level the match.
Azarenka broke in the opening game of the final set, just two games before the match was suspended for the fireworks, a planned stoppage of play that both players were notified about before the match.
While Azarenka jogged around and practiced her serving motion during the 10-minute fireworks break, Li sat on her courtside chair for most of the stoppage.
It was on the first point that she again fell to the court.
Li said she went “totally black” for two seconds after her head hit the court, and when a medical official asked her to follow her finger “I started laughing, thinking ‘This is a tennis court, not like a hospital.” Li said the tournament doctor saw here after the match and checked out her head and neck.
“I should be OK,’ Li said.
From the outset, the capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena was firmly behind Li, cheering loudly when she was introduced. Azarenka, meanwhile, had her errors applauded, and one spectator even mocked the loud hooting sound she makes when she hits a shot.
The chill from the crowd was a remnant of Azarenka’s semifinal win over American teenager Sloane Stephens, when Azeranka was criticized for taking a questionable 10-minute medical time out near the end of the match. She was accused of taking the time out to compose herself after she’d wasted five match points while serving for the match against Stephens, although Azarenka said she needed the time out because a rib injury was making it difficult for her to breathe.
In the second set yesterday, a few fans heckled Azarenka over the incident. One man yelled, “Take a deep breath, Vicky.” By the end of the match, she appeared to have won some of the fans back. Azarenka’s friend, rapper Redfoo, yelled down to her from the player box “You deserve it,” and she later blew kisses to the crowd. Someone else in the crowd shouted “Victoria, we love you.” Azarekna appeared to quickly forgive the crowd, saying during the trophy presentations that she wanted to thank the fans for their support.
“I will always keep very special memories of this court and it will be in my heart forever,” she said, pausing several times to find the right words. “Of course, I (almost) forgot to say congratulations to Li Na, she’s had a terrific start to the year ... hope to see you in many, many more finals.” Azarenka and Li had met twice before in Grand Slam tournaments, with Li winning both times — in the fourth round of the 2011 Australian Open and quarterfinals at the French Open. Li lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters but won her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros a few months later, beating Francesca Schiavone.
But after failing to advance past the fourth round at any major in 2012, Li hired Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin’s former coach. The hard training he’s put her through in the past four months appears to be paying dividends.
Li won a WTA tournament in China before traveling to Australia, where she advanced to the semifinals at the Sydney International.
In the other final today to end the year’s first Grand Slam, the unseeded pairs of Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden of Australia and the Czech Republic’s Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak play for the mixed doubles championship.
Bryans triumph
Mike and Bob Bryan have captured their record 13th Grand Slam doubles title, defeating the Dutch team of Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling in the Australian Open final 6-3, 6-4 yesterday.
The Americans had been level with the Australian legends John Newcombe and Tony Roche with 12 major titles.
The Bryans now have six Australian Open titles to go along with four at the US Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the French Open.
The brothers, top seeds at Melbourne Park, have also finished eight of the last 10 years as the No. 1 ranked doubles team, including last year.
Haase and Sijsling were playing in their first Grand Slam final and only their seventh tournament together.


Sublime Mohamed Salah leads Liverpool to stunning 5-2 win over Roma

Updated 25 April 2018
0

Sublime Mohamed Salah leads Liverpool to stunning 5-2 win over Roma

  • Liverpool move onto 38 goals for this season’s competition — 11 more than any other team
  • Salah is now on 43 goals for the season in all competitions

LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah put his former side Roma to the sword on Tuesday night with a scintillating performance as the Reds ran riot at Anfield, taking a commading 5-2 lead into next week’s second leg in Rome.
The Italian side had no answer to the Egyptian superstar’s sublime skill as he scored two world-class goals and set up another two for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Firmino added the fifth as the Merseyside club romped into a 5-0 lead to put the English side within touching distance of the Champions League final.
Salah’s display was as exquisite as Roma’s defending was naive, with Liverpool scoring all of their goals in a breathtaking 33-minute spell either side of halftime amid a cauldron of noise at Anfield.
But two consolation goals in the final nine minutes from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti has given Roma hope of recreating their heroics from the previous leg against Barcelona.
In the latest virtuoso performance of his stunning first season at Liverpool, Salah curled a shot into the top corner in the 36th minute and doubled the lead in the 45th with a dinked finish that is fast becoming his trademark. He is now on 43 goals for the season in all competitions with potentially five games left.
The Egypt forward was not finished there, taking advantage of Roma’s high defensive line to provide crosses for Mane and Firmino to score almost identical goals in the 56th and 61st minutes, respectively.
Firmino glanced home a header from James Millner’s corner in the 69th to leave Roma’s players on the floor — literally in the case of their distressed goalkeeper, Alisson.
Liverpool moved onto 38 goals for this season’s competition — 11 more than any other team — but cannot begin preparing for the final in Kiev on May 26 quite yet.
Dzeko chested down a long pass to make it 5-1 in the 81st and when Milner handled a shot from Radja Nainggolan, Perotti converted the penalty in the 89th.
Bayern Munich play Real Madrid in the other semifinal, with the first leg in Germany on Wednesday.
Roma knows all about Salah, who scored 15 goals and set up 11 more in the second of his two seasons at the Italian club before joining Liverpool for 42 million euros (then $47 million) in June.
He’s obliterating those figures at Anfield this season. His double saw him surge past Cristiano Ronaldo’s 42 goals for Manchester United in the 2007-08 season, for example.
Salah won English soccer’s Player of the Year award on Sunday. At this rate, the Ballon D’Or could be his next year.