Saturday, January 25, 2014


And here we are, at the finish, who will be the victor? We have Li Na of China, number 4 ranking, playing against Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, number 20 ranking,  for the 2014 Australian Open title.

The heights and ages seem a bit mixed up here.  Li Na is 5 feet 8 inches, whereas Dominika is 5 feet 3 inches,  Li Na is married and 31 years old, Dominika is single and 24 years old.  A different kind of match up, this will be good!

First, a little re-cap ~

What an incredible two weeks it has been!  Li Na almost did not make it, but came back to win her round 4 match, and didn't look back since. Her playing has been dominated by taking each point at a time, as the commentators say she tends to get too 'emotional' on the court, thinking of the end result, that last point, instead of staying in the point. Hard to concentrate like that, but Li Na has great discipline, look at where she is now!

We also saw Ana Invanovic take down a giant, Serena Williams.  What a feat of belief, strength, and getting beyond her demons of choking and instead believing in her points, all under the canopy of grace.

And Maria Sharapova?  Brought down also early on, who knew?  She put up a fight with the Italian Karin Knapp, a duel to the finish, but it was not Maria's day. We are all human, after all.

Let the game begin!

Recommendation from Li Na's Coach Carlos Rodriguez~ focus on playing the game, and not winning, focus on the game to the very last point. Also, keep shooting till you find your rhythm. Great advice for us all!

Stabilize the emotions and get rid of the negative, very hard to do!  Li Na sets an example for us all.

Dominika has changed up her racquet for al larger racquet face, by Dunlop, it helps give extension to the smallest person on the tour. Her response? I make sure I have great footwork!
Here is a 2 minute YouTube pre- final interview~

Set 1~

Cibulkova opens the set serving, gets to a deuce, but double faults twice. Talk about nerves! Cibulkova has great ground shots, these are useful for the shorter player. 0-1.

Li Na is really moving Cibulkova around. 2-0 Li Na. 

Cibulkova gets her great leg strength into the ball. She is a defensive player, but to win you need more than that. Okay, Cibulkova holds now, 1-2, she is on the board!

Twenty minutes into the match now.

Cibulkova is over hitting balls, 12 so far. Still okay, game Cibulkova, at 2-3 now.  Playing catch up although she served first.  

This illustrates the fact it is best to serve first.  If you are broken first game, ( as Cibulkova), you are only behind a game, as if you served second. But hold your next games! And break your opponent once, and you can still take the first set at 6-4 on that scenario.

Okay, Cibulkova breaks Li Na! Li double faults! We are back on serve now, let's see what happens :)

Li is unhappy with the tension on her racquet strings. Many variables can determine a match.

Cibulkova is swinging like crazy, really putting on the  heat here. 40-15 now. Game Cibulkova! 4-3, on serve again.

Li Na is winning points, 40-15 now.  Her Western grip gives her greater topspin.  Her backhand stroke is best, Cibulkova take note! Game Li Na, 4-4.

Cibulkova serves, total muscle. 40-30 now.  Great down teh line backhand from net by Li Na, in, deuce now. Fabulous topspin keeps the ball in.  Advantage Cibulkova. Third game point. Fault. Fault again, deuce. Fault. Li Na's backhand again from net... advantage Li.  Li hits long, deuce. Cibulkova gets lucky, her ball kicks off the net to land in. Ad Cibulkova. Li hits backhand long. Game Cibulkova, 5-4.

5-5, we knew that. Li catches up.

Now, 5-6! Li breaks Cibulkovss.

Cibulkova breaks Li Na!

Tie breaker!  Back and forth, Li Na leading at 5-1, Cibulkova returns, 2-5, goes on, Li Na wins the first set at 7-3 tie break points. Game 7-6, set to Li Na.

One hour, 10 minutes so far.

Set 2~

First game, Li Na.  Her back hand is her best shot. This is a huge advatage for Li Na to serve first, with her newly strung racquet besides.

Cibulkova serves now.  30-0. Double faults.  30-30 now. Li Na is too good. Breaks Cibulkova. 2-0 Li Na.

This is a night match, temperatures are dropping.

Li Na is getting to net much more than the first set, it is paying off.  40-30 Li serving. Game point. Fault.  Back and forth, Cibulkova has to keep the ball away from Li Na's strike zone around her backhand, not the case, Li Na hits another signature down the line backhand for a winner. Game Li Na, 3-0 now.

It's not that Cibulkova is playing poorly, it is Li Na's backhand that is the ultimate weapon.  Li Na is the third most famous person in China, according to commentator. 30-30 now. Big moment for Cibulkova to catch up, but does not happen, 30-40. Big trouble for Cibulkova.  HUGE Li backhand, game Li Na. 4-0 now.  These are quick games.

Li na serving at 0-15, a chance for Cibulkova.  0-30. Hmmm. Nope, on the board with 15-30 now.  30-30 now. Watch out, Cibulkova. 40-30.  Li gets to the net, game at 5-0 now!!

There goes that down the line backhand again!  0-15. There it goes again. 0-30. Cibulkova is in a deep hole here.  Okay, ball skims the net, some luck here. 15-30.  15-40.  Li is using her backhand for just about every shot, and why not?  Cibulkova is now hitting more to Li's forehand, Li hits long, 30-40.  Cibulkova hits forehand long, game 6-0, set, match, championship Li Na!!

photo by Aaron Favila, Associated Press

Congratulations Li Na!  You have earned every shot you have won this Australian Open!

And Cibulkova, we so look forward to seeing so much more of you, I know we will!  You give all the shorter players of the world inspiration that you CAN be a great player, find a way!  And you have, with your workouts and fitness, your calculated footwork, the first Slovakian player to make a Grand Slam final. Stand tall, and you are, congratulations!

photo Aaron Favila, Associated Press

Congratulations, ladies, you MAKE the game of tennis!

                      For MORE on Li Na, please see THE SPLIT STEP IN TENNIS!

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