2013 Women’s Australian Open Tennis Championship
#1 Victoria Azarenka (-145) vs #6 Na Li (+115)
Rod Laver Arena
Melbourne Park – Melbourne, Australia
Playing Surface: Plexicushion (Hard)
Saturday, January 26, 2013, 3:30 am Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Defending Champion: Victoria Azarenka
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
Victoria Azarenka is 23 from Belarus. She looks to win her second straight Australian Open title and second major overall. The #1 seeded Azarenka will take on #6 Na Li in the final of the 2013 Australian Open. Li is 30 from China. According to Bookmaker, Azarenka is -145 to win and Li is +115.
Azarenka is 7-0 this year. She made it to the semifinals at Brisbane, but had to withdraw because of a toe infection from a bad pedicure. It hasn’t seemed to affect her so far as she has only dropped one set in the Australian Open.
Azarenka beat Monica Niculescu in the first round, Eleni Daniilidou in the second, Jamie Hampton in the third, Elena Vesnina in the fourth and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarters. Hampton beat Azarenka 6-4 in the second set, and Kuznetsova lost 7-5 in the first. Otherwise no one in her section of the draw won more than 4 games in any set. Because of upsets, Azarenka did not face any seeded players before the semifinals.
Azarenka caught a break in the semifinals when up and coming 19 year old American Sloane Stephens upset #3 Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. Serena was battling a severely sprained ankle and she had to undergo treatment for back spasms in the second set against the #29 seed Stephens. That isn’t to take anything away from the brilliant play of Stephens, but Williams could barely move after the back spasms. Williams still had a chance to win in the third set, before Stephens won the last 3 games.
Azarenka cruised to an easy 6-1 win in the first set against Stephens. Azarenka took a 4-2 lead in the second, and suffered a rib injury that was affecting her breathing. She also had a gimpy left knee. Azarenka took a 5-4 lead and then took a controversial injury timeout just before Stephens was serving to stay in the match. Azarenka had already blown 5 match points. The injury timeout took nine minutes and lead to boos and howls of derision from the crowd. Many accused Azarenka of gamesmanship. Azareanka would come back after the injury timeout to finish Stephens off by breaking her serve. In the post-match interview, Azarenka mentioned something about her nerves getting to her. Azarenka would say later she misunderstood the question, and that she meant no ill will towards Stephens, and that the injury timeout was just bad timing on her part.
Azarenka had 2 aces and 6 double faults. Stephens had an ace and 2 double faults. Azarenka had 64% on first serves and 37% on second serves. Stephens was 45% on first serves, and 30% on second serves. Azarenka converted 7 of 11 break points, and Stephens was 3 for 6. Azarenka had 21 winners and 31 unforced errors, while Stephens had 14 and 42.
Li won the French Open in 2011, her only major title. She was the runner up here in 2011, but didn’t make it past the fourth round in any major last year. Li is 14-1 this season with a title at Shenzhen and she lost to Agnieszka Radwanska in the semis at Sydney. After a down year in 2012, Li appears back to to the form of her great 2011 campaign.
Li beat Sesil Karatantcheva in the first round here, Olga Govortsova in the second round, #27 Sorana Cirstea in the third, #18 Julia Goerges in the fourth, #4 Radawanska in the quarterfinals. Li won a set in a tiebreaker against Goerges and won a couple of sets 7-5. She has yet to drop a set in the tournament despite a very tough draw.
In the semifinals, Li crushed #2 Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2. Li had 2 aces, and 1 double fault, and Sharapova had 3 and 6. Li was 62% on first serves and 63% on second serves. Sharapova was 62% on first serves and 25% on second serves. Li was 5/10 on break points, and Sharapova was 1 for 7. Li had 21 winners and 18 unforced errors, and Sharapova had 17 and 32.
Azarenka leads the series 5-4 against Li. Azarenka has won 4 straight matches against Li and has only dropped one set in that stretch against Li. Li beat Azarenka in both the 2011 Australian and French Opens, their only meetings in grand slam events.
Li is playing some unbelievable tennis right now, and if she plays like she did against Sharapova and Radawanska, then Li has a real shot of pulling off the upset. We will have to see how Azarenka’s injuries affect her. The crowd should be solidly behind Li after Azarenka’s antics against Stephens. Still I think Azarenka overcomes all of those obstacles and wins a tough 3 set match.