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Azarenka gamely defends Australian Open crown

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 10:50 AM
MELBOURNE, Australia -

Victoria Azarenka had the bulk of the crowd against her. The fireworks were fizzling out, and when the top seed looked over the net, she saw Li Na crashing to the court and almost knocking herself out.

Considering the cascading criticism she'd encountered after her previous win, Azarenka didn't need the focus of the Australian Open final to be on another medical timeout.

So after defending her title with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over the sixth-seeded Li in one of the most unusual finals at Melbourne Park, Azarenka understandably dropped her racket and cried tears of relief Saturday night.

She heaved as she sobbed into a towel beside the court before regaining her composure to collect the trophy.

"It isn't easy, that's for sure, but I knew what I had to do," the 23-year-old Belarusian said. "I had to stay calm. I had to stay positive. I just had to deal with the things that came to me."

There were a lot of those during the 2-hour, 40-minute match. Li, who was playing her second Aussie Open final in three years, twisted her ankle and tumbled to the court in the second and third sets.

The second time was on the point immediately after a 10-minute delay for the Australia Day fireworks - a familiar fixture in downtown Melbourne on Jan. 26, but not usually coinciding with a final.

The 30-year-old Chinese player had tumbled to the court after twisting her left ankle and had it taped after falling in the fifth game of the second set. Immediately after the fireworks ceased, and with smoke still in the air, she twisted the ankle again, fell and hit the back of her head on the hard court.

The 2011 French Open champion was treated immediately by a tournament doctor and assessed for a concussion in another medical timeout before resuming the match.

With the win, Azarenka will retain the No. 1 ranking she's mostly held since her first Grand Slam win in Melbourne last year.

Bryans make history with doubles title

Mike and Bob Bryan became the most decorated doubles team in Grand Slam history by winning their 13th major title, beating the Dutch pair of Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling 6-3, 6-4 in 53 minutes in the Aussie Open final.

The 34-year-old Americans had been tied with the Australian greats John Newcombe and Tony Roche with 12 major titles.

The Bryans have won each major at least once, but they play their best tennis Down Under - they have six Australian Open titles to go with four at the U.S. Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the French.

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