Wednesday, January 24, 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
Lightning beats Predators in overtime

Lightning beats Predators in overtime

NASHVILLE — Steven Stamkos’ celebration said it all.The Lightning captain delivered an emphatic fist pump after his rocket one-timer clanked in off the crossbar, tying the score with just over two minutes left at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night. T...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 23

Tuesday’s scoreboardBoys basketballBoca Ciega 55, Canterbury 53Girls basketballBoca Ciega 65, Largo 19
Updated: 4 hours ago

James joins exclusive group with 30K points

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — LeBron James became the youngest player ever with 30,000 career points, but LaMarcus Aldridge scored 30 to lift the Spurs over the slumping Cavaliers 114-102 on Tuesday night. James had 28 while becoming the seventh member of the...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning journal: Mikhail Sergachev a healthy scratch

Lightning journal: Mikhail Sergachev a healthy scratch

NASHVILLE — Lightning rookie D Mikhail Sergachev was a healthy scratch Tuesday for the first time this season.Coach Jon Cooper didn’t elaborate before a 4-3 overtime victory over the Predators, just labeling it a "coach’s decision."It was a bold deci...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Predators

Steven Stamkos is showing signs of snapping out of his slump. Stamkos, who Tuesday snapped a nine-game goal drought, had more jump (and four shots) Monday. On Tuesday, Stamkos had a slick setup on a 2-on-1 for Vladislav Namestnikov’s goal. Stamkos’ 3...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Wednesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMarquette at Xavier6:30 p.m.FS1South Carolina at Florida7 p.m.SEC; 1250-AMGeorgia Tech at Florida State7 p.m.FSF; 1010-AMBoston College at Syracuse7 p.m.ESPNUSt. Joseph’s at St. Bonaventure7 p.m.CBSSNNebraska at Rutgers7 p.m.Bi...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Two quick goals in second lift Penguins

PITTSBURGH — Dominik Simon and Jean-Sebastien Dea scored 76 seconds apart in the second period, fellow rookie Casey DeSmith made 34 saves and the Penguins beat the Hurricanes 3-1 on Tuesday night. Jake Guentzel added a goal midway through the third a...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Back on right path, Robinson High’s Byron Pringle hopes to impress at Senior Bowl

Back on right path, Robinson High’s Byron Pringle hopes to impress at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. — Byron Pringle understands how easily his life could have gone another way."I’ve been through a lot, but I’m very blessed," he said. "What happened in the past, it made me who I am today. It’s made me realize you have to value the thing...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Downcast Nadal hobbles out, unable to finish fifth set

Downcast Nadal hobbles out, unable to finish fifth set

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal limped off the court after quitting in pain early in the fifth set Tuesday to send Marin Cilic into the semifinals of the Australian Open, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 2-0.The top seed, who had been treated on his upp...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Senior Bowl journal: Washington State teammates playing with heavy hearts after QB’s suicide

Senior Bowl journal: Washington State teammates playing with heavy hearts after QB’s suicide

MOBILE, Ala. — Washington State QB Luke Falk and G Cole Madison began their practices at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday with heavy hearts, still reeling from last week’s news that Cougars QB Tyler Hilinski had committed suicide.They remembered their frie...
Updated: 6 hours ago