Melbourne, Jan 29 (AP) Kim Clijsters won her secondstraight Grand Slam title and the fourth of her career,struggling early before beating Li Na 3-6 6-3 6-3 today in theAustralian Open final.
The result ended the outstanding run of Li, who becamethe first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam singles final.
Li appeared to become upset with some of the Chinesespectators in the crowd in the third set, and asked the chairumpire to intervene. She later complained about the flashesfrom photographers at center court.
U S Open champion Clijsters was wiping tears from hereyes at the end. The win came in likely her last appearance atMelbourne Park - she said that 2011 could be her last fullyear on the tour.
"I finally feel like you guys can call me Aussie Kimbecause I won the title," Clijsters said at the trophypresentations, referring to her crowd favouritism that camefrom her former relationship with Australian No 1 LleytonHewitt.
Looking at Li, Clijsters said: "I think we''ll have a lotmore tough battles to come, hopefully a few more Grand Slamfinals would be nice."
It was the first night match for Li at Rod Laver Arena,where the cooler temperatures after the sun sets usually makesthe hard court slower. But Melbourne warmed up late today,making even the night conditions similar to what Li would haveexperienced in cooler day matches earlier in the tournament.
Li, with her courtside humour and bubbly personality,endeared herself to the fans here and around the world. Backhome, she was a huge hit.
"The Chinese fans were prepared to express their feelingsand shed their tears of excitement. We were just one step fromvictory," China Central Television announcer Tong Kexin saidtoday. CCTV predicted that about 15 million people watched thematch live on its sports channel.
Clijsters led 4-2 in head-to-head matches before thematch, but Li beat Clijsters in the Sydney International finaltwo weeks ago after the Belgian player had led 5-0 in theopening set.
Li and Clijsters weren''t into any mind games before thematch, seen outside the dressing room doors joking and smilingwith each other. Li seemed uncharacteristically nervous in herpre-match TV interview, though, and that translated on to thecourt.
Clijsters opened the match with an ace, winning the firstgame on four straight points, then breaking Li the same wayfor a 2-0 lead after just a few minutes.
But Li found her range and seemed to lose her nervousnessin the third game, breaking Clijsters and then holding for2-2. (More) AP SHN