22 Jan 2012


(22 JAN.) In her final appearance at the Australian Open, Kim has chalked up at least one last magic Melbourne moment, saving four match points on her way to a thrilling victory against Li Na on Rod Laver Arena. After a slow start and hampered by an ankle injury sustained in the first set, Kim eventually closed it out 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4.

'I can't believe I won', said Kim. 'I knew before the match that it was going to be a tough match but I didn't expect this obviously! I don't want to quit my last time at the Australian Open', said the Belgian, revealing not just her fighting spirit but that this will, as many suspected, be her last trip Down Under, at least in a playing capacity. It definitely crossed my mind at some point... I mean, it's not that I was constantly thinking about it. But at one point you think "Okay, I'm just gonna go for it. Once I made that decision, I didn't think." I just tried to find a solution for, you know, how I was feeling, you know, to find a new tactic, tactical game. Or even in my mind to just, okay, know that the wide shots, I'm not gonna be able to push off like I want to with the wide shot with my serve, but I'm gonna try to fight in any other way.'

The match opened with Li jumping out of the blocks to break Kim in the first game of the match. Not to be outdone, Kim broke straight back.

The Australian Open 2011 finalists would trade breaks again in the first set before Kim went over awkwardly on her left ankle with the set tied at 3-3. She made straight for the bench for a medical time-out. After swallowing an anti-inflammatory pill, and having her ankle sprayed and taped, Kim unconvincingly made her way back out to court. She held serve, just, but it would be Li who seized the initiative. Sensing her opponent's discomfort, Li moved Kim around while the Belgian tried to keep points as short as possible by going for winners. Li came out on top, securing the break with a forehand down the line before serving out the set.

At this stage, many expected Kim, whose movement was clearly inhibited, to retire and nobody would have blamed her. But she was determined to leave on her terms.In opposition though, was Li who wasn't in a romantic mood. The reigning Roland Garros champ's backhand was in devastation mode and she was firing it at will. She seized the first break of the second set in the third game but some loose play let Kim back into the match.

In the sixth game Kim perseverance paid off, breaking back to level at 3-3. The Belgian yelling 'C'mon!' as a Li backhand sailed over the baseline. Both players managed to hold serve and their nerve as the set headed for an inevitable tiebreak.

A series of unforced errors from Kim and some unforgiving play by Li and suddenly the 2011 finalist was leading the tiebreak 6-2, with four match points in hand.

It was here that Kim conjured the remarkable. Two errors from Li, a forehand winner from Clijsters and then one of the best exchanges of the match, which finished with Kim drawing Li to the net then lobbing her to level at 6-6.

Kim wrapped up the next two points without fuss to claim the set as a shellshocked Li stared into space during the change of ends.

'I didn't want to give her anything for free. You know, if she was going to come up with an ace or with a winner, you know, too good, but I didn't want to make the mistake', said Kim.

'I'm not saying that that forehand dropshot was a good choice, but, you know, you make decisions. Luckily, that one turned out okay. I think she was a little bit, you know, lost or maybe a little bit confused at that time, and she made two pretty easy mistakes when we changed sides', she added.

Li's take on the missed opportunities was a mixture of nerves and her opponent playing better than her when it counted most.'

'During the time, of course [I] was nervous. If you nervous you could not think too much, right?' said a visibly upset Li. 'What I can say is today she play better than me.'

The missed opportunities seemed to have an effect on Li who was not herself early in the third set. Instead of winners, she hit a string of unforced errors as Kim grabbed consecutive breaks to lead 4-0.

'After the tiebreak I was think – I was a little bit, how do you say, worrying about myself because I have four match points, but I didn't take it', explained Li after the match.

The Chinese would claw one break back in the final set, but the damage was done. Kim wobbled slightly late in the set, but the ice cool Belgian wrapped up the match on her second match point when Li committed one final error.

Kim now takes her place in the final eight for the seventh time in her 10 attempts. In the quarterfinals she will face Caroline Wozniacki on Tuesday.

But the question remains, will she be fit for that match? Only time will tell. 'I have the best people around me to take care of me and to make sure that this is hopefully not going to get any worse than it is now.'

(adapted from www.australianopen.com)

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