Australian Open final: Li Na v Cibulkova

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 23, 2014
This will be Li Na's third time in the Australian Open final and her goal, she half-jokes, is to not fall down. For Dominika Cibulkova, the game plan is to enjoy the moment that she describes as a beautiful dream coming true. The No. 4-seeded Li is the favorite to win Saturday's final, based on her ranking, her experience and the fact that she already has won a major - the 2011 French Open. But the past two weeks have proven that there is nothing predictable about this year's Australian Open. After a tournament of upsets, the championship is marked by who's not in it: No. 1 Serena Williams, a winner of 17 majors; No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, the two-time defending champion; and No. 3 Maria Sharapova, the four-time Grand Slam winner who was beaten in the fourth round by the unheralded but highly energetic Cibulkova. Playing as the underdog has suited 20th-seeded Cibulkova. The 24-year-old has won all but one of her matches in straight sets, including three in just an hour or less. The diminutive Slovakian who stands at a mere 1.61 meters (5-foot-3) has endeared herself to the crowds at Melbourne Park with a ferocious fighting spirit on-court and heartfelt comments afterward. ''I still can't believe I'm playing finals. I can't believe this is happening,'' Cibulkova told the Rod Laver Arena crowd on Thursday after another upset in the semifinals over 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska. When Cibulkova hit the last forehand winner, she threw her racket into the air, fell flat on her back and then buried her hands in her face. Later at a post-match news conference, she blinked back tears. ''It will be the biggest match of my life,'' said Cibulkova. ''It's a big pressure. Still I want to enjoy it on the court. I don't want to suffer on the court.'' ''It's something beautiful. It's like a dream.'' The 31-year-old Li knows what it's like to suffer during a final in Melbourne. Last year, she twisted her ankle and fell over twice before losing the 2013 Australian Open final to Azarenka. On the second tumble she fell and hit the back of her head on the hard court, needing on-court treatment by a tournament doctor who assessed her for a concussion as the crowd watched. ''At least I'll try to not fall down this time,'' Li said Thursday after beating Canadian teen Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-4. ''Last year in the final, I think I played well, but I only can say I was unlucky because falling down twice.'' Li's sense of humor which shines through broken English in on-court interviews has made her one of the perennial crowd favorites in Melbourne. She often makes wise cracks about her husband and former coach. After the quarterfinals Li said she considers her tennis rackets as members of the family and has named them: Li Na 1, Li Na 2 all the way up to Li Na 8. Looking ahead to the final, Li said she expects a tough match because she and Cibulkova have similar tennis styles. They're both fast, powerful and cover the court with speed. ''She has pretty fast legs on the court,'' said Li, who has a 4-0 lead against Cibulvoka in head-to-head matches. ''Yeah, We play pretty similar. So, tough match. Another challenge.'' In China, Li said, there is a belief that tough times in the past means good luck ahead. So does Li feel lucky at the Australian Open this year? ''Until now, yes,'' she said.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Is Serena Williams the most important modern athlete?
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Russell Westbrook posterizes DeMarcus Cousins to seal win

Tampa Bay Lightning trade star goaltender Ben Bishop to the LA Kings in surprise deal

Divac makes bold promise after trading DeMarcus Cousins

Popovich praises Magic, wishes him well with Lakers

Report: Andrew Bogut likely to join Cavs after buyout

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Broncos expected to 'at least discuss' Romo

Report: Raiders don't expect to keep Latavius Murray

Report: Josh Hamilton needs another knee operation

Ball's father says comment about Lakers was misquoted

Revis hints he is open to taking significant pay cut

Several NBA executives have concerns about Lonzo Ball’s father

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

Box Score 2/24: A night of NBA disrespect

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

The 'Pete Rose instead of Kareem? Surely, you can't be serious' quiz

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Teams that can prevent a Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals three-peat

The NFL off-season is a passer’s fancy

The Aesthetic: Pushing the boundaries of the three-pointer

NBA coaches who should be fired soon

Tennis News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

The 'Pete Rose instead of Kareem? Surely, you can't be serious' quiz

Teams that can prevent a Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals three-peat

The NFL off-season is a passer’s fancy

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher who has recorded 10 or more shutouts in a single season

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker