Li relaxed, ready for battle in women's final

JOHN SALVADO
Last updated 20:31 25/01/2013
Li Na
Getty Images
OUTLAST: Li Na during her quarterfinal against Agnieszka Radwanska.

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Temperamental titleholder Victoria Azarenka may be ready to pop, but Chinese challenger Li Na is impossibly at ease heading into their Australian Open final tomorro night.

While Azarenka today felt compelled to apologise for the timing of her controversial timeout during her semi-final win over Sloane Stephens, Li was cracking gags during her pre-final press conference.

The bubbly Chinese has a second chance for Open glory after falling in three sets to Kim Clijsters in the final in 2011.

Two years on and Li returns as a happily content grand slam champion, having won the 2011 French Open, and in career-best form under the influence of esteemed coach Carlos Rodriguez, former mentor of seven-times major winner Justine Henin.

Li said she was considerably more experienced player than when she last challenged for the title.

"Last time was more exciting, nervous, because it was my first time to be in the final," the 30-year-old said.

"But I think this time more I am calmed down, more cool a little bit. Yeah.

"But for the final you never know what will happen on the court, so I just come to the court to try."

Li declined to buy into the Azarenka medical timeout controversy that was swirling around Melbourne Park today, saying it was not her right to judge her rival's conduct.

"I'm not her, so I didn't know the truth," said the world No.6.

"Also I wasn't on the court to see, so I couldn't say anything.

"I mean, she call doctor on the court? Or if doctor say she need out of the court, she should follow the doctor, right?"

Asked if she would ever consider a medical timeout, Li was equally diplomatic.

"If I'm injured, yes. If no, not," she said.

Li has lost her past four meetings with the world No.1, but hasn't lost to Azarenka at a grand slam, beating the Belarusian en route to claiming the Roland Garros title and also downing her at the 2011 Australian Open.

The sixth seed is also drawing confidence from her 6-2 6-2 semi-final swamping of Maria Sharapova.

"I think Maria was even more powerful than Azarenka. Maria is more tall," Li said.

"She never gives up, so strong in the mind. Azarenka as well, but with a little bit less power.

"She likes to put the ball corner to corner and make the opponent run for the whole court."

When Li lost to Clijsters two years ago, her husband was coach. This time she has a far more accomplished tactician in her corner.

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"Last time for my team was also the first time to be in the final," she said.

"So nobody tell me what I should do on the court.

"This time it is a different story. Carlos, before he was coaching for Justine, so he has a lot of experience for the final.

"So I think should be okay this time."

- AAP

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