Kim Clijsters wins Australian Open title
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Third seed Clijsters, playing her eighth grand slam final, shrugged off a listless start to ratchet up the pressure to break Li's serve at 3-3 in the second set in a tension-charged atmosphere at Rod Laver Arena.
The 28-year-old Li crumbled spectacularly and marched to the chair at the change of ends to ask British umpire Alison Lang: Can you tell the Chinese don't teach me how to play tennis?
Having dominated after overcoming a nervous start, Li won only three of the next eight games as triple US Open champion Clijsters marched to her fourth grand slam title in two hours and five minutes.
Li, aiming to become China and Asia's first singles grand slam champion, blasted a wild forehand to concede the match and Clijsters shrieked and held her head in elation.
Clijsters was strong early, blasting an ace on the first point, then broke Li to love to charge to a 2-0 lead, sealing the break with a down-the-line forehand passing shot that clipped the net before bouncing out of the Chinese player's reach.
Ninth seed Li won her first point after losing the first eight and sparked into life, attacking Clijsters's serve with abandon and taking the break back after the Belgian slapped a backhand wide.
Li saved two break points at 3-2 down and punished Clijsters in the next game, chasing down a weak volley by her opponent to earn two break points and then pressuring the Belgian into netting a backhand to take a 4-3 lead.
Clijsters blew another breakpoint and belted a forehand wide to allow Li to hold serve and the Chinese pressed the advantage to bring up two set points with a searing forehand.
Li sealed the second set point with an imperious crosscourt forehand that passed Clijsters at the net.