Australian Open Final Preview

Victoria Azarenka and Li Na will square off for the 10th time, but the first time in a Grand Slam final.

Published January 25, 2013 03:51

Australian Open Final Preview
Victoria Azarenka

MELBOURNE, Australia - Another Australian Open final in prime time will feature WTA superstars Victoria Azarenka and Li Na, each of whom is appearing in her third Grand Slam final and chasing her second Grand Slam title.

Saturday, Final
Rod Laver Arena
[1] Victoria Azarenka (BLR #1) vs. [6] Li Na (CHN #6)
Azarenka leads 5-4
Both Victoria Azarenka and Li Na will surely feel the pressure of playing for another major title, however, Azarenka will have the added incentive of needing to win to hold on to the No.1 ranking she first secured by triumphing here last year.

Though Azarenka has won four straight in her series with Li, she has fallen in both meetings at majors - at the 2011 Australian Open and 2011 French Open. Li went on to great success after both of those matches, reaching her first Grand Slam final in Melbourne and securing her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. Azarenka's fourth round defeat at the hands of Li in Melbourne in 2011 was the last time the Belarusian lost a match in January - having won 20 straight in the season's first month.

Both players have had tremendous success here, Azarenka with a record of 27-6 and Li 27-7 - the most wins and best winning percentages at any major for both. However, in terms of form this fortnight, Li would seem to have the slight edge. She has not dropped a set, despite playing four straight seeds - most notably No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals and No.2 Maria Sharapova in the semifinals. Though she has surrendered just one set, to Jamie Hampton in the third round, Azarenka has only had to take on one seed - No.29 Sloane Stephens in the semifinals.

One stat going against Li is she is just 2-7 against World No.1s. If she is able to overcome that, she would be the first player to defeat the World No.1 and No.2 at the same major since Svetlana Kuznetsova did so at the 2009 French Open. Also, the soon-to-be 31-year-old would become the oldest Australian Open champion in the Open Era and seventh-oldest at any major.

As for Azarenka, a win would make her the eighth player to successfully defend an Australian Open crown. Interestingly enough, No.1 doubles seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci were victorious here on Friday, thus an Azarenka singles victory would make this the first major since the 2004 Australian Open in which No.1 seeds took both titles.

Whomever is victorious on Saturday will join 15-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, seven-time winner Venus Williams, four-time winner Sharapova and two-time winner Kuznetsova as the only active players with multiple Grand Slam titles.

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