Melbourne: “Best speech ever” was the universal verdict to Li Na’s unscripted thanks at the trophy ceremony after she erased two near-misses at Melbourne Park with a joyous victory in her third Australian Open final, on Saturday.
After warming up by paying respects to her opponent, Li thanked her high-profile agent Max Eisenbud for “making me rich” before singling out her husband and former coach Jiang Shan, long the butt of his wife’s jokes, for special praise.
“Now, of course, my husband... famous in China. Thanks for him for giving up everything, just travelling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the racquets, so, he did a lot of jobs,” she grinned as Jiang was ribbed in the players’ box.
“So, thanks a lot, you’re a nice guy.
“And... also you are so lucky, you found me.”
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.
Asked whether it was her destiny to win, Li said: “Maybe, because last year I was falling down. That was unlucky, so they gave it back to me for this year.”
She planned to celebrate the Chinese New Year back in her hometown of Wuhan on the Yangtze river with her mother, who remains too nervous to watch her matches and had not yet sent her any congratulations.
“At this moment, I think my tennis is going up,” Li said. “In tennis, everything can happen. Right now for me, the most important thing is to enjoy it for a couple of days, have a very good Chinese New Year.
“I’m happy to take the trophy back for Chinese New Year. I’ll show it to (my mum) for one second and then put it into my house.”
On the other hand, Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova is confident she can win a Grand Slam title one day as her run to the Australian Open final showed she can adapt her game to all surfaces.
“I’m 24 years old and I have already played in a Grand Slam final,” she told reporters.
“I feel like my game is there to challenge the biggest names and to beat them, so why not (win a Grand Slam)?
“When you play a Grand Slam final, it’s a big step. I’m ready to take it. I was waiting for this for a long time. Now I want to do 100 per cent to keep it up.”