MELBOURNE, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- After losing two Australian Open finals, Li Na of China eventually lifted the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after beating Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova 7-6(7-3), 6-0 in Friday's final here.
Though managed to break Cibulkova in the opening game of the first set, the fourth-seeded Chinese struggled with her serve and forehand. Cibulkova took the chance in the sixth game in which Li committed two straight double faults, to level the first set at 3-3.
Cibulkova then held with a big serve to move 4-3 ahead. Li then broke again in the 11th game but failed to serve out the set as the No.20 seed Slovakian survived to take the opener into a tiebreak.
The 2011 French Open champion Li got her form back in time to take a 5-1 lead in the tiebreak. She only needed one of the three set points as Cibulkova netted a backhand.
"I think both of us were tight and nervous in the beginning of the match. And I don't have very good first serve as well," said Li.
The first-set vicotry through tiebreak obviously helped Li in growing in confidence. Cibulkova, seven-years younger than Li, lost her pace in the second set as she failed to keep even just one serve game as Li won the second set in only 27 minutes.
"After she won the first two games, she just relaxed and was going for her shots," said Cibulkova. "It was impossible for me to do something and be aggressive because she was just really, really playing well."
"Today I can only regret that my serve was not really there. My serve wasn't working," said the Slovak. "Then she could push me from the first balls and I was under pressure all the time. That's why she was better."
Cibulokva, among the shortest women on the WTA Tour at 1.61m, was the first Slovak woman to reach a Grand Slam final and eliminated two top5 seeds, dropped only one set on her way to final. She stunned third seed Maria Sharapova of Russia in the fourth round and defeated No.5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets in semifinals.
"Maybe tomorrow morning I will be 100 percent of myself. But now it's just maybe like 50 percent," said Cibulkova. "It was my first Grand Slam final and I'm just proud of the way I handle it."
"When you play a Grand Slam final, it's a big step. I'm ready to take it. I was waiting for this for a long time. Now I want to do 100 percent to keep it up," Cibulkova added.
Li made into her third Australian Open with dropping only one set. She saved a match point in the 12th game of the second set in her third-round match against 26th seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.
Li, who turns 32 next month, became the first woman to claim an Australian Open crown over the age of 30 since Margaret Smith Court won in 1973.
"I'd like to say age is nothing. I can sitll win the Grand Slam. So pretty happy about my age. I got more experience on the court," said Li, who's also the oldest player to win women's title at the Melbourne Park.
Li had entered Australian Open women's singles final in 2011 and 2013.
In 2011, she led 1-0 against Kim Clijsters from Belgium in her first Grand Slam final, but failed in the end.
A year ago against Victoria Azarenka from Belarus, Li fell down, twisting her ankle and hitting her head so hard on the court that she suffered concussion.
Li's WTA ranking is likely to rise to No.3 after her performance in Melbourne, which equals her personal best. She will be within 11 points of No.2 Victoria Azarenka.
More photos>>Highlights of women's singles final of Australian Open
Li Na wins first Australian Open title
MELBOURNE, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Two-time runner-up Li Na of China finally won her first Australian Open women's singles title here on Saturday after beating Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova 7-6(7- 3), 6-0 in the final.
The fourth seed fought 70 minutes to take the first set through a tiebreak. She broke Cibulkova's serve in the opening match but made two double faults in the sixth game, which allowed Cibulkova to break back. Full story