sport

Azarenka hoping dust settles

Victoria Azarenka is hoping the dust has settled on her controversial semi-final defeat of Sloane Stephens ahead of the Australian Open final.

Azarenka found herself at the centre of a cheat storm after taking a 10-minute medical timeout immediately after failing to take one of five match points against the teenage American.

In the immediate aftermath, when asked why she left the court at 5-4 in the second set, Azarenka said: "I felt a little bit overwhelmed and realising I was one step away, nerves got into me."

However, an hour later in a press conference she claimed a locked rib which left her struggling to breathe was the reason for her departure from Rod Laver Arena.

She sought to clarify the situation further on Friday when she said: "I feel like yesterday was big news. It's fair for me to give my story. It was a big misunderstanding.

"It was bad timing. I would never do something against a player, especially Sloane. I've known her since she was a little girl.

"It's not fair to me because everyone can make a mistake.

"I just need to calm down with the whole situation, with what happened, and make sure my body's right."

The issue has overshadowed the build-up to what should be an intriguing contest between the top seed and China's Li Na, who thrashed Maria Sharapova to reach her second Melbourne final.

Azarenka knows she is in for a tough evening.

"She's in incredible form right now," she said. "She's in the final so anything can happen.

"It looks like she has improved a lot. It will be a tough match so I'm really looking forward to it."

Azarenka clinched her first major title here last year and will need to retain the trophy to prevent Serena Williams from claiming her number one world ranking.

However, the 23-year-old is adamant that tournament wins and not top spot are her sole motivation.

"I'm really hungry to defend my title," she said. "That was my first goal. I have put myself in

position to give it the best shot there is, being in the final.

"So I'm really looking forward to it. I'm not really thinking about the ranking right now."

Li was not willing to give her opinion on the timeout issue and preferred instead to concentrate on the match itself.

She lost to Kim Clijsters in the final here in 2011 but went on to become the first Asian player to win a major a few months later at the French Open.

And she believes those experiences mean she has a better understanding of what it takes to win tomorrow.

"Last time I was more excited, more nervous," she said. "This time I am calmer, more cool."

Azarenka has won their last four meetings but has never beaten the Chinese player at a grand slam.

"I hope I can continue that," Li said. "For her it is a tough match as well. For me it's really important to enjoy the moment."