MELBOURNE, Australia - Li Na made it third time lucky in the Australian Open final, beating Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (3), 6-0 on Saturday to become the oldest woman to clinch the title here in the Open era.
Li, who turns 32 next month, lost Australian Open finals to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and to Victoria Azarenka last year. In between, she won the 2011 French Open to become the first Chinese woman to win a major.
In both her previous finals at Melbourne Park, Li won the first set but went down in three. Against Azarenka last year, she stumbled and twisted her ankle, and needed a medical timeout in the third set after hitting her head on the court.
She had no such trouble against No. 20-seeded Cibulkova this time after winning the first set in a tiebreaker.
Li held up both thumbs, and held back tears, as she left the court. She went immediately to the side of the court to shake hands with her coach Carlos Rodriguez in the stands.
The diminutive Cibulkova, one of the shortest players ever to reach a Grand Slam final at 1.61-meters (5-feet-3), had four wins over Top 20 players in the tournament, including a fourth-round upset of third-seeded Maria Sharapova and a straight-sets semifinal trouncing of No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska.
In the semifinals, she held off 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, and never had to face a player ranked in the top 20 en route to the final.