Azarenka and Sharapova battle for Women’s Australian Open Title

2012 Women’s Australian Open Tennis Championship
Saturday, January 28, 2012, 3:30 am Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Melbourne Park – Melbourne, Australia
Rod Laver Arena
Playing Surface: Plexicushion
Women’s Final
#3 Victoria Azarenka (-135) vs #4 Maria Sharapova (+115)
Odds courtesy of bookmaker

Maria Sharapova takes on Victoria Azarenka in the final of teh Australian Open. Azarenka is a slight favorite to win her first grand slam title.

Not only is the first Grand Slam title of 2012 on the line but the #1 ranking is as well. Whomever wins between #3 Victoria Azarenka  and #4 Maria Sharapova  will be the world’s #1 player in the next rankings since former #1 Caroline Wozniacki lost in the quarterfinals to Kim Clijsters.

Both Azarenka and Sharapova are coming off difficult 3 set matches in the semifinals . Azarenka beat the #11 seed Clijsters 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to advance to her first grand slam final. The match was a little sloppy on both sides with a combined 84 unforced errors, and only 46 combined winners. Each player had one ace. Clijsters had 5 double faults and Azarenka had 7. Clijsters was 63% on first serves, and Azarenka was 58%. Each player had 4 service breaks.

Sharapova beat #2 Petra Kvitova 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the semifinals. Sharapova overcame 10 double faults and 30 unforced errors. Kvitova had 4 double faults, but also 4 aces. Kvitova had 41 unforced errors but hit 29 winners. The difference in the match was Sharapova had 5 breakers and Kvitova only had 3. Sharapova was 66% on first serves and Kvitova was 59%.

Azarenka is 22 from Belarus. Azarenka never made it past the quarters here before this year. She does have 9 wins in her career including one in Sydney this year.   Azarenka beat Heather Watson, Anna Tatishvilli, Mona Barthel, Iveta Benesova, and #8 Agnieska Radwanska to get to the semifinals. She dropped the first set to Radwanska in a tiebreaker but never allowed more than 4 games in an other set.

Sharapova is 24 and from Russia. Sharapova is a three time major winner, including the 2008 Australian Open. Sharapova has 24 career titles. She beat Gisela Dulko, Jamie Hampton, #30 Angelique Kerber, #14 Sabine Lisicki, and Ekatrina Makarova. She lost a set to Lisicki but didn’t lose more than 3 games in any other set on her way to the semifinals.

This is the seventh meeting between Azarenka and Sharapova, with the series tied 3-3. They have never played in a grand slam event before now. They have played 4 matches on hard courts, with each winning 2. Azarenka and Sharapova played twice last year. Azarenka beat her 6-1, 6-4 in the finals of the Stanford event on hard courts. They met in the quarters in Rome on clay. Azarenka won the first set but had to retire due to injury in the second set.

Sharapova is trying to climb back from an injury four years ago that dropped her out of  the top 100 players in the world. She can regain her status as the world’s number #1 player. For Azarenka, she has a chance to win her first grand slam title. The young Belarusian has been trying to stay loose by goofing around practicing her dance moves. One thing is certain it will be loud, as both players grunt and shriek at high decibels  with every shot.

This should be a great match. I think it will go the distance, and Azarenka will win and become the new #1 player in the world.


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