Immediately after (and in fact during) the player introductions, it was clear to the world that the Australian fans were backing Li Na for the Australian Open Women’s Final.
In a somewhat theatrical final comprised of 16 service breaks, a nearby fireworks display, two injury timeouts (one of which was a nasty fall by Li, slamming the back of her head into the court), and despite the hostile pro-Li fans, Victoria Azarenka captured her second Aussie championship with a thrilling 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over her “girl-on-fire” opponent.
Before the match began, I too was hoping for a Li Na win. But that changed quickly as the capacity crowd began to cheer everytime Azarenka made a mistake. One spectator even mocked the loud shrieking sound she makes when she hits her shots. As a former college player and lower tier pro, I have always been irritated by such behavior. The sport of tennis demands more respect from its fans…but that’s a whole new subject for an entirely different article.
Getting back to the crux of the story, the crowd’s frigidity was remincient of Azarenka’s semifinal win over American player-on-the-rise Sloane Stephens, when Azeranka was heavily criticized for taking a questionable 10-minute visit from the WTA trainer at a precarious point in time of the match.
All of that being said, I’m happy to report that by the end of the match, Azarenka appeared to have won at least some of the fans back. Azarenka’s biggest fan, 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.”
In closing, I am equally happy to testify that even with world #2 Serena Williams hot on her trail vying for the top spot on the WTA Tour, Azarenka managed to hold on to the #1 ranking while making a bold and absolute statement to the tennis world – she truely is the best player in the world. Viva Vika!