Azarenka wins Australian title but loses friends

Victoria Azarenka retained her Australian Open title, much to the disappointment of the local crowd. Azaraenka beat Li Na in a hard-fought three-set match, but the Melbourne fans were still aggrieved about the manner of Azarenka’s victory in the semi-final.

Many had thought that Azarenka had used her experience unfairly when she had taken a nine-minute medical break at a crucial point in the match with American teenager Sloane Stephens. Stephens found her rhythm interrupted by the hiatus and the Melbourne crowd were in no doubt that it was gamesmanship. Stephens's coach, David Nainkin, called it "cheating within the rules" and, "unsportsmanlike".

Azarenka had been unrepentant after the match against Stephens. "All I can do is try to give my best," she said. "What I can control is come to you guys and tell my side of the story. I can't control what you will write or what people will think, because that is out of my hands."

There had been considerable criticism in the press. Azarenka’s cause had not been helped by the fact that the "victim" had been the inexperienced teenager who had been the revelation of the tournament.

In the final Azarenka seemed a little unnerved initially by the hostility of the crowd. She started hesitantly. Li Na, after taking the first set, struggled with an ankle injury in the second, and it was apparent her chance had gone when the Belarussian began to exert her strength in the third. The Chinese player wasn’t helped by the break imposed by the Australia Day fireworks display.

Li Na had been supreme in her match against Maria Sharapova in the final, but her fitness turned out to be a main obstacle in the final. Azarenka retains her world number one ranking, but won’t be winning too many popularity contests in Australia.

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