China’s Li said Melbourne Park makes her feel at home, while World No 1 Azarenka’s relationship with patrons inside Rod Laver Arena has always been uneasy.
She has been jeered in the past for her trademark shrieks while hitting the ball, and her triumph in the semi-final against Sloane Stephens was marred by a controversial medical timeout at a crucial stage. Azarenka lost five match points while dropping her serve at 5-3 in the second set.
When she completed her 6-1, 6-4 win after extended off-court treatment from the doctor, there was only a smattering of applause. The 23-year-old was criticised in Australian newspapers.
“Let’s hope she loses the final,” wrote The Australian. “Aza bad call,” was the headline in the Herald-Sun. “Beyond A Choke,” was on the front page of The Age. “Azarenka’s cheating ain’t no choke,” said The Daily Telegraph.