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December 5, 2020
SPORTS

Australian Open: Li Na and Azarenka fight for the title

In perhaps the best match she’s played in a year and a half, China’s Li Na crushed No. 2 Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-2 on Thursday to move into the Australian Open final for the second time in her career, according to the official website of the competition. She will play against Victoria Azarenka who defeated Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-4.Li finished the one hour and 33 minute contest with 21 winners to 18 unforced errors, and she forced Sharapova into 21 errors. For her part, 2012 finalist Sharapova could never find her rhythm and finished with just 17 winners and 32 unforced errors, while forcing Li into 23 errors. Given that Sharapova had only lost nine games in five matches coming into the contest, she was considered a heavy favourite by some, but Li has been playing extremely well since the summer began, winning the title in Shenzhen, reaching the semis in Sydney and, in Melbourne, taking out three successive seeded players without losing a set: Sorana Cirstea, Julia Goerges and Agnieszka Radwanska, who was undefeated on the season entering their quarterfinal.As Victoria Azarenka homed in on a place in the women’s singles final, sploshing Sloane Stephens for a set and a bit with power and panache, everything suddenly went horribly wrong both on and off the court. On court, the world No.1 went off the boil, started to panic and ended up being prodded and poked by the medics who discovered that one of her ribs had “locked”.Off the court, the Twitterati went ballistic, accusing Azarenka of gamesmanship for taking a nine-minute medical time out just as Stephens was about to serve to stay in the match. This was going to take some sorting out. Asked in her on-court interview why she had left the court and how she was feeling now, Azarenka opened a can of worms.“I almost did the choke of the year right now,” she said, according to the official website of the competition. “At 5-3, having so many chances and I couldn’t close it out. I was a bit overwhelmed realising I was one step away from the final. Nerves got into me, for sure.”

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