Sun sets on Li dream


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When Li Na looks back on this, her first Grand Slam final, she can be mighty proud of how she fared.

As long as she can forget her awful start, that is. Considering  the enormity of her achievement in reaching this final Saturday in Melbourne, and what it has meant for tennis back in her homeland of China, you'd have thought she might have been a little more focused.

But there she was, the ever-genial Li, chatting amiably to her opponent Kim Clijsters in the tunnel before the match, when perhaps she should have been focusing on the biggest match of her life.

Maybe it was nerves on the biggest of stages (she denied that), maybe she doesn't know any different - either way it proved costly as she dropped the first two games before it finally sunk in that this was actually a match to get serious about.

That's when she started to play like the player who fully deserved her place on Rod Laver Arena in the final of the Aussie Open.

Unfortunately, in Clijsters, she faced an opponent who is at the top of her game, herself equally deserving to be there - and a hugely deserving eventual winner.

Kim showed all her experience in recovering from that wobble in the first set to compose herself and roar back, taking the next two sets 6-3 to be crowned Aussie Open champ for the first time.

Kim is not only a classy player but also a nice girl and her acceptance speech was full of grace and humour; exactly why the Aussies - and to be honest, Tramlines too - love her.

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Saturday certainly had an air of celebration about it, with the cast of 'hit musical Hairspray' (can we just not call it Hairspray?) kicking off the evening's proceedings inside Rod Laver (the Arena, not greatest tennis player of all time himself).

But we should not forget that the day wasn't just about the women's final, easy as it is to do so.

No, we also saw the conclusion of the doubles, junior and wheelchair events.

In the boy's tournament, Czech man-child Jiri Vesely - conqueror of Brit hope George Morgan in the semis - destroyed an albeit ill local favourite Luke Saville to kick things off.

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An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium emulated compatriot Clijsters by beating Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in straight sets in the girl's draw, while in the wheelchairs Shingo Kunieda (men) and the incredible Esther Vergeer (women) triumphed to add to David Wagner's victory in the quad wheelchair event.

There was no small amount of media attention focused on them when they were later introduced on stage in the fan zone at Garden Square - and rightly so. Great achievements for all five of them.

- - -

Novak Djokovic got a shock when he walked into his pre-final press conference today, sat down and heard the moderator say: "Questions for Andy please."

The room guffawed at the poor bloke's gaffe, while Djokovic got up and mock-walked out of the room, saying: "This is ridiculous. This is not appropriate. I cannot work like this."

Classic Nole and, it has to be said, a breath of fresh air after the awkward affair that was the real Andy, Andy Murray's presser a day previously. Classic Nole and, it has to be said, a breath of fresh air after the awkward affair that was the real Andy, Andy Murray's presser a day previously.

Perhaps Murray has suffered from the glare of the media spotlight, while Djokovic has been able to blossom away from the same kind of pressure in his native Serbia, but the Scot could certainly take a lesson or two from his upcoming opponent in that particular department.

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CELEBRITY SPOTTER: Tramlimes can barely believe we've got through nearly an entire Aussie Open without a faintest whiff of a mention of either Neighbours of Home and Away. So, in a bid to rectify that particular omission, Angel from Summer Bay was today spotted at Melbourne Park. Although Melissa George is probably now better known for roles in Alias, among other things.

TWEET OF THE DAY: CaroWozniacki: "Enjoying my last night in Melbourne! Dinner on the beach with my parents, Kirilenko, her parents, Mats and Sven.." Caroline AND Maria? Trammers had to be physically restrained from jumping on the first tram down there. Less bothered about Mats and Sven.

RALLY OF THE DAY: Kim's serving, she's 15-30 down at 3-3 in the first set. But before she can, a sizeable bug jumps onto court, which Li manages to trap under her racquet before motioning for the ball girl to come over and sort it out. She does so, capturing it expertly before scurrying off court and coolly opening the courtside bin and depositing said creepy-crawly inside. A thrilling rally ensues, which Li wins when Kim volleys long.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "No matter if you are fat, skinny or ugly, I will always love you and follow you." Li Na retains her sense of humour in defeat when thanking her (long-suffering?) husband.

CAPTION CORNER: She was this close...

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