Li Na stands tall in Melbourne

Li Na stands tall in Melbourne

Tennis Australian Open

Li Na stands tall in Melbourne

Chinese overpowers Cibulkova to become the oldest winner of Daphne Akhurst Cup

China’s Li Na banished the ghosts of two Australian Open final defeats by overpowering Dominika Cibulkova on Saturday to win her second major title and give the Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific its first Asian singles champion.

The 31-year-old needed a tie-break to clinch an error-strewn first set but romped away with the second for a 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 victory to become the oldest woman to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

Li was the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles title at the French Open in 2011 and ended her 31-month membership of the “one-slam wonder” club when her Slovakian opponent sent a forehand long after 97 minutes.

Losing the final to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Victoria Azarenka last year, both times after winning the first set, had only added to Li's reputation as a formidable player with a major flaw in her temperament.

“At last I made it. Not like the last two times, always feeling one more step. But this time I did it so I'm really so proud of myself,” the fourth seed rejoiced.

Cibulkova, one of the shortest women in the game at just 5ft-3in (1.6 metres) tall, had beaten four top 20 players, including third seed Maria Sharapova, on her fairytale run to her first Grand Slam final.

The 24-year-old dynamo was still smiling at the end of the final and described the tournament as the “most fantastic two weeks of my life”.

If 20th seed Cibulkova was hoping to ride the momentum of her ruthless semifinal demolition of Agnieszka Radwanska she got a quick reality check when Li broke her first service game on a double fault.

Even at that early stage, it looked like Li only had to tighten up her first serve and cut out the errors in her forehand as her power, when her range was accurate, was overwhelming Cibulkova.

The Slovakian’s run to the final was built not only on her aggression and energy but also on mental strength, however, and she broke back for 3-3 when Li double-faulted on two successive points.

Li upped her level to break again for 6-5 and had a set point on her own serve only for Cibulkova to send the match to a tie-break when Li netted a backhand.

The Chinese charged to a 5-1 lead in the tie-break and, with 25 unforced errors to her name, took a one set lead after 70 minutes when Cibulkova also netted a backhand.Cilbulkova's celebratory fist pumps were now becoming fewer and fewer -- she hit just 11 winners in the match and four in the second set -- as Li got better and better.

Li was now finding the lines with her rasping backhands and the less dependable but equally forceful forehands and she broke the Slovakian's serve for the fifth time on her second championship point to clinch the title.

There were two first time Grand Slam champions after the men's doubles finals closed the penultimate day of the tournament when Lukasz Kubot and Robert Lindstedt beat Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen 6-3, 6-3.

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