26 Jan 2014

Third-time lucky Li keeps her wits in Melbourne

6:50 pm on 26 January 2014

"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.

Runner-up in 2011 and 2013, the 31-year-old overwhelmed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 7-6 6-0 to win her second grand slam title - and Li then left a packed Rod Laver Arena in stitches as she paid tribute to her team.

She thanked her high-profile agent Max Eisenbud for "making her rich" before singling out her husband and former coach Jiang Shan, long the butt of his wife's jokes, for special praise, suggesting he was "lucky to find her".

The speech capped an emotional night for Li, who was so nervous before her match that she decided to take a late afternoon nap to avoid looking at the television or thinking too much about her third appearance in the final.

Asia's first grand slam singles winner when she won the French Open in 2011, Li's success and the expectations of 1.3 billion in her homeland have sometimes rested heavily on her shoulders.

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.