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AO Thursday: Aga & Cibulkova To Face Off

Dominika Cibulkova is one of three Australian Open semifinalists in pursuit of their first Grand Slam title.

Published January 22, 2014 12:11

AO Thursday: Aga & Cibulkova To Face Off
Dominika Cibulkova

MELBOURNE, Australia - An upset-ridden Australian Open has left Li Na as the new favorite to capture the title, though Agnieszka Radwanska is among the worthy challengers still alive.

Thursday, Semifinals

Rod Laver Arena
[5] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL #5) vs. [20] Dominika Cibulkova (SVK #24)
Head-to-head: Radwanska leads 5-1
Agnieszka Radwanska has to like her chances of reaching her second Grand Slam final and becoming the Australian Open's first Polish finalist. She has only lost once to semifinal foe and fellow 24-year-old Dominika Cibulkova, and the one other time they played in Australia in the 2013 Sydney final, Radwanska did not even drop a game. She also is riding a wave of confidence, with her three set triumph over Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals her fifth Top 2 win.

"I've seen her matches here and she's been playing really great tennis," Radwanska said of Cibulkova. "It's always tricky to play someone that you've known for so long and played so many times. Every match is a different story, especially when it's a Grand Slam semifinal. I'm going to try my best."

One statistic certainly in Cibulkova's favor is her six hours and 45 minutes spent on court here is least of the semifinalists, while Radwanska's nine hours and nine minutes is the most. Also, Cibulkova surrendered the least amount of games in the quarterfinals - just three against Simona Halep. Having last reached a Grand Slam semifinal at the 2009 French Open, this is the longest gap between Grand Slam semifinal outings since Mary Pierce's five-year gap from the 2000 French Open to the 2005 French Open. If she records her 12th Top 5 win, Cibulkova will be Slovakia's first Grand Slam finalist.

[4] Li Na (CHN #4) vs. [30] Eugenie Bouchard (CAN #31)
Head-to-head:
Li leads 1-0
Since her third round scare against Lucie Safarova in which she fought off a match point, Li Na has dropped just six games. If she can win two more matches, the 2011 and 2013 Australian Open runner-up will be the first player to save a match point en route to the title here since Serena Williams in 2005. Li is now the on-paper favorite, as a host of upsets have made this the first Australian Open with none of the Top 3 seeds in the semifinals since 1997.

Making her Grand Slam semifinal debut in her first Australian Open main draw appearance is Eugenie Bouchard, who is the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Carling Bassett-Seguso at the 1984 US Open and the first ever at the Australian Open. If she can pull off her first Top 5 win, she will be the first teen into a Grand Slam final since Caroline Wozniacki at the 2009 US Open. Regardless of her results from here, she will make her Top 20 debut on the new rankings and based on her recent form, appears a likely candidate to continue to make runs at many future majors.

"She's a great champion and has won a Slam," Bouchard said of Li. "I played her once in Montréal two years ago in one of my first big matches. We had a close match. I know she's very solid, very good from the baseline. It's going to be hard, but I'm looking forward to it."

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