Coming into this year’s Australian Open championships, most analysts tagged Kim Clijsters as the outright favorite. Today, the Belgian demonstrated that they were correct in pegging her as the one to beat. Clijsters fought off China’s Li Na 3-6,6-3,6-3 to claim her first major in Melbourne, the fourth of her career.
Subsequent to a love hold, Clijsters broke Li at love thanks to a net court winner and took a 2-0 lead in the opening set. However, with Clijsters donating four straight errors after having game point, Li erased the advantage. Later, serving at 2-3, Li overcame a 15-40 deficit to reach deuce. Despite resistance from Clijsters, Li equalized the set at 3 all. With Clijsters flubbing a forehand volley, Li arrived at double break point. She capitalized and obtained a 4-3 edge when Clijsters dumped a backhand crosscourt into the net. After staving off a break point, Li consolidated for 5-3 and with a forehand crosscourt pass winner broke Clijsters for the third time to secure the set.
Clijsters was acutely aware that Li would not be an easy put away. In the semifinals, Li salvaged a match point before upsetting world number one Caroline Wozniacki to become the first Chinese female to book a spot in the final at a major. Moreover, just two weeks ago in Sydney, Li defeated Clijsters in the final. More importantly, although this was Li’s initial major final, she was doing a great job at bottling her nerves.
In spite of two game points at the start of the second set, Li failed to maintain serve, double faulting to hand Clijsters the first game. Yet, like in the previous set, on her second break point opportunity, Li provoked a backhand mistake from Clijsters to get back on serve. Still, the very next game, with a crosscourt winner, Clijsters broke for a 2-1 lead. Relentless, on her fourth break point, Li struck a forehand crosscourt winner to level the set at 2 all. Then, Li obliterated double break point to hold serve for 3-2. But Clijsters would not be denied. Following a tough service game, Clijsters again was at double break point. This time with a backhand down the line winner, the Belgian broke for 4-3 and ultimately consolidated. Next, with Li gifting a few errors, Clijsters closed the set with another break of serve.