Monday, May 21, 2018
Sports

Old school: Li, 32, captures historic title

MELBOURNE, Australia — Seven months after giving retirement serious thought, Li Na made it third time lucky in an Australian Open final with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 win over Dominika Cibulkova, becoming the oldest women's champion here in the Open era.

Li, who turns 32 next month, lost finals to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and to Victoria Azarenka last year. In between, she won the 2011 French Open in one of the many firsts she has established for Chinese tennis.

Widely popular at Melbourne Park for her funny postmatch interviews and cracks about her husband and his snoring, Li didn't disappoint the Rod Laver Arena crowd in her victory speech.

She first thanked her agent, Max, "for making me rich," her coach Carlos Rodriguez, then her husband, former coach and constant traveling companion, Shan Jiang.

She told him he was "even famous in China."

"So thanks for him give up everything just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks, fix the racket. So thanks a lot, you are a nice guy," she said, pausing for the laughter. "Also you are so lucky, find me."

In both of her previous finals at Melbourne Park, Li won the first set but lost in three. Against Azarenka last year, she stumbled and twisted her ankle, and needed a medical timeout in the third after hitting her head on the court.

She had no such trouble against No. 20 seed Cibulkova, racing through the second set in 27 minutes after taking the first in a tiebreaker.

"Finally I got her," Li said as she put a hand on the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

Li's supporters were everywhere in the crowd, some with Chinese flags painted on their faces, others holding Chinese flags or signs painted with Chinese characters. Her fans got her through the nervous first set, chanting, "Li Na, Let's Go," in Mandarin during every changeover.

No. 4 seed Li opened the final by breaking Cibulkova, holding, then getting a break point chance in the third game. But Cibulkova held, then broke back in the sixth thanks to Li's consecutive double faults. Li broke in the 11th and had a set point serving for the set in the 12th but lost three straight points to ensure it went to the tiebreaker.

As Li began her roll in the second set, someone yelled — before Cibulkova served — "C'mon Li Na, bagel her!"

She did, and a half-hour later she was holding back tears as she hugged her Slovakian rival.

The diminutive Cibulkova, one of the shortest players ever to reach a Grand Slam final at 5 feet 3, had four wins over top 20 players on her way to the final, including a fourth-round upset of No. 3 Maria Sharapova.

"These were just fantastic two weeks of my life," Cibulkova said, pausing to laugh, then cry. "Hello to everybody in Slovakia. This means a lot for our country, and I'm happy I can be the one here for Slovakia."

Comments
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning one win from Stanley Cup final

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning one win from Stanley Cup final

The Lightning plays in Washington tonight with a chance to close out the series and advance to the Stanley Cup final. Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to talk about the game and why Andrei Vasilevskiy and the defense is playing so well.Plus, the...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Softball: Scouting the Admiral Farragut vs. John Carroll semifinal

Softball: Scouting the Admiral Farragut vs. John Carroll semifinal

Admiral Farragut (17-5) vs. John Carroll Catholic (11-11)When/where: 4:50 p.m. Monday at Historic Dodgertown, Vero BeachHow they got hereAdmiral Farragut defeated Naples St. John Neumann 17-0; defeated Bradenton St. Stephen's 3-1John Carrol...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Why the Buccaneers’ 2018 schedule isn’t as bad as it seems

Why the Buccaneers’ 2018 schedule isn’t as bad as it seems

Saints, Eagles, Steelers.Three games against three playoff teams to open the NFL season.Who in the league scheduling office did the Buccaneers tick off?What an injustice!Or not.Maybe the league did the Bucs a favor.Would you rather face the Saints, E...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning watch party tonight for Game 6

Lightning watch party tonight for Game 6

Tampa Bay Lightning fans can gather to witness the team's possible clinching of a Stanley Cup final berth tonight in downtown Tampa.The watch party for Game 6 in Washington starts at 6 p.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.It will include three screen...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For Bolts radio duo, being fans at heart is key to their success

For Bolts radio duo, being fans at heart is key to their success

As the last tension-filled seconds of a tight playoff game wind down, high above the Amalie Arena ice, the play-by-play man becomes increasingly animated.Dave Mishkin, eyes bulging, face purple, jumps from his seat, holding the headset with his left ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Angels game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Angels game

* It's always interesting to think of how many amazing plays you see made in a game, then often a simple one — such as the fourth-inning comebacker to Rays RHP Matt Andriese — gets messed up and costs teams heavily, as that led to two run...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays journal: Pitching plan works, until Sergio Romo leaves in second inning

Rays journal: Pitching plan works, until Sergio Romo leaves in second inning

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Doubling down on their innovativeness and starting veteran reliever Sergio Romo for a second straight day worked out fine Sunday for the Rays.It was the less-effective pitchers who followed, plus the ineffectiveness of their h...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Expansion Vegas advances to Stanley Cup final

Expansion Vegas advances to Stanley Cup final

WINNIPEG — The Vegas Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup final — with a chip on their shoulder."Everybody on this team has something to prove," forward Ryan Reaves said. "We call ourselves 'The Golden Misfits' for a reason. We're ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
What a long, strange and winning road trip it was for Rays

What a long, strange and winning road trip it was for Rays

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The nearly Yanny-vs.-Laurel level national debate over their latest pitching strategy innovation of starting relievers isn't quite as entertaining today. The In-N-Out burgers in the clubhouse after the game weren't as tasty. T...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Taggart delivers a bolt to area

Taggart delivers a bolt to area

TAMPA — After spending four years as USF’s football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it’s no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," he sai...
Published: 05/20/18