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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kim Clijsters Defeats Li Na to Win Australian Open

Kim Clijsters rallied to win the Australian Open women's singles title 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 against Li Na of China on Saturday. Clijsters, the 2004 Australian Open runner-up and three-time U.S. Open champion, defeated Li for her fourth career Grand Slam title. It is the 27-year-old Belgian's second major in a row and her third since coming back from retirement in the summer of 2009.

Li, who was playing in her first Grand Slam final, was up a set and had broken Clijsters twice to start the second set. However, Clijsters' experience in major titles paid off for the Belgian as she tweaked her game to rally in the second half of her eighth-career major championship.            

After losing the first eight points of the contest, Li battled back to take the early lead and looked settled. But Li, who was representing China in Asia's first-ever Grand Slam singles final, faltered during vital spots in the second set.

When Li was up 3-2 in the second set, the 28-year-old Chinese native became unglued and lost control of the match. Clijsters quickly won the next four games to secure the set as the unnerved Li unraveled quickly. Clijsters broke Li's serve four times in the second set. Additionally, Li became visibly disturbed by crowd noise and photographers around this time.

The Belgian built on her momentum and opened up the decisive set with a hold at love. Clijsters took advantage of a shaken Li and went up 5-2 in the third set. After Li held in the eighth game, Clijsters won four consecutive points on serve to close the match out in the ninth. Li pushed a forehand wide on Clijsters' first championship point.

An emotional Clijsters, who started to tear up following the win, left the court with her first non-U.S. Open major title of her career.

Both players struggled with their service games throughout the match. Clijsters finished with seven breaks, while Li broke Clijsters six times. The most telling statistic of the match, however, was Li's 40 unforced errors – many coming after being up 6-3, 3-2 and serving as Clijsters' impetus.

Clijsters, who alluded throughout the week that 2011 may be her final full year on tour, might be leaving Melbourne Park on Saturday a winner for the final time in her career at the tournament.

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