By Randy Walker
In winning the Australian Open women’s singles title Li Na of China has accomplished a rare feat first achieved Down Under in 1923.
Margaret Molesworth of Queensland won the second-ever staging of the Australian women’s singles championship in Brisbane in 1923 saving a match point in her 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 semifinal win over Sylvia Lance. Ninety-one years later, Na became the seventh player to win the Australian women’s title after being down match point.
Na stared at her tournament mortality at the 2014 Australian Open in the third round against Lucie Safarova trailing 1-6, 5-6 on a sweltering first Friday of the tournament. Safarova, who served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, missed a shot on her match point by centimetres, confirmed by a challenge.
Four matches later, Na was crowned the tournament champion after a 7-6 (3), 6-0 win Saturday over Dominka Cibulkova of Slovakia.
“I think the five centimetres saved my tournament,” Li said after her win over Safarova. “If she had hit it in … the whole team (would have been) on the way to the airport. At least I won the match, so I am still in the tournament. I was really happy the way I fought on the court from first point until the last point.”
The last time a women saved a match point to win a major title came when Serena Williams saved a match point against Elena Dementieva in the 2009 Wimbledon semifinal. It last happened in tennis at the 2011 US Open when Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer 7-5 in the fifth set in the semifinals, Djokovic famously coming back as Federer served for the match at 5-4, 40-15 in the fifth set.
The full list of all of previous women to win the Australian Open from match point down is listed below, as excerpted from THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS book, for sale here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Collins-History-Tennis-Authoritative/dp/0942257707/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390654854&sr=8-1&keywords=bud+collins+history+of+tennis
1923 SF, Margaret “Mall” Mutch Molesworth d. Sylvia Lance, 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 (saved 1 MP, 3rd)
1956 F, 2nd seed Mary Carter d. 5th seed Thelma Coyne Long, 3-6, 6-2, 9-7 (saved 1 MP, 3rd)
1991 SF, 2nd seed Monica Seles d. 3rd seed Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-3, 0-6, 9-7 (saved 1 MP, 3rd)
2002 F, 1st seed Jennifer Capriati d. 3rd seed Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 (saved 4 MP, 2nd,1 at 5-3, 40-30, 2 at 5-6, 30-40
and ad-out, 1 at 6-7 in tie-breaker)
2003 SF, 1st seed Serena Williams d. 4th seed Kim Clijsters, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 (saved 2 MP, 3rd, at 5-2, 40-30 and ad-in)
2005 SF, 7th seed Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova, 2-6, 7-5, 8-6 (saved 3 MP)