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It’s wonderful theatre – even when the villain of the piece prevails

In the women’s final, Li Na seemed to beat herself. Having taken the first set in fine style, she found all kinds of ways to squander easy shots and winning positions.

The break for the Australia Day fireworks didn’t help the likeable Chinese number one, since she was 2-1 up in the final set at the time. But in the end her mental frailty cost her, and Victoria Azarenka took advantage.

You had to admire “Vika” for her determination to persevere, even when she could feel the hostility of the Australian public.

Quite rightly they didn’t like her gamesmanship in the semi-final and didn’t buy her explanation. It is hard to imagine a less popular finalist, yet Azarenka still found a way to prevail.

The Australian crowd grudgingly admired her for that mental toughness. And when the battle was done, they also realised what the world number one had been through, because she burst into floods of tears.

Sportingly, the Aussie public found it in their hearts to cheer Victoria after that, to make an absorbing evening complete. Sport is all about heroes and villains. And everyone in that audience knew that the women’s final had provided some amazing theatre, even when the so-called villain of the piece had taken the trophy.

What other sport offers this kind of drama? Tennis is tops, no doubt about it. And Grand Slams are such precious jewels in this golden age that we are lucky to witness them.