2011 Women’s Australian Open Tennis Championship Match, Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
Na Li vs Kim Clijsters, Saturday, January 29, 2011, Approximate match time: 3:30 AM Eastern, TV: ESPN2
China’s Na Li has already made history by becoming the first Asian woman to make to the finals of a Grand Slam Event. Li is the #9 seed in the tournament. She hopes to make even more history by winning the Australian Open Saturday. It won’t be easy as she faces Belgian Kim Clijsters in the finals. Clijsters is the 3 seed in the tournament.
Li is 28 years old and has made it to at least the quarters of 4 out the last 6 slams played including this one. She is currently ranked #11 in the world but her career high was #9 in early 2010 after reaching the semifinals of this event. She will reach her best ever ranking after this event especially with a win. She has 4 career wins including one earlier this year in Sydney. Li beat Clijsters in the final of that event 7-6 (7-3), and 6-3. The Sydney event was played on a hard surface much like the Australian Open. Clijsters leads the overall series 4-2 against Li. Li is playing the best tennis of her career, and hasn’t lost a match in 2011.
Li’s path to the finals includes victories over over Sofia Arvidsson, Evgeniya Rodina, Barbora Zahlova-Strycova, #8 seed Victoria Azarenka, #30 seed Andrea Petkovic, and an upset of #1 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the semis. Li beat Wozniacki 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. The first set was the only set Li lost during the whole tournament, and Wozniacki was up 5-4 in the second set. Wozniacki was serving for the match, and Li stormed back to win 3 straight games to take the set. The charming Li has become the darling of the Australian Open with her wonderful sense of humor. After the match against Wozniacki, Li delighted the crowd by telling them she didn’t sleep very well the night before because her husband was snoring too loud. Li has converted 65.2% of her first serves into winners. Li has 11 aces and only 3 double faults during the tournament. She has 33 service breaks in the tournament. Li is averaging 25.5 winners per match and 29.2 unforced errors.
Kim Clijsters has won 40 career singles titles, including 3 grand slam titles, all at the U.S. Open. Her best finish at the Australian Open is a runner-up in 2004. She took 2 years off to have a baby and returned to win the U.S. Open in 2009. Clijsters won 5 events last year and was the 2010 WTA player of the year. She reached #1 several times but has never finished the year as the top ranked player in the world. Though she lost to Li earlier this year in the final of the Sydney event Clijsters holds a 4-2 advantage over Li in head to head matches. This is the third time the two have met in a grand slam event but the first at the Australian Open.
Clijsters has yet to drop a set in the Australian Open this year, though she has gone to a tiebreaker in three sets. Clijsters has wins over Dinara Safina (6-0, 6-0 over a former #1 player in the world), Carla Suarez-Navarro, Alize Cornel, Ekaterina Makarova, #12 seed Agnieszka Radawanska, and #2 seed Vera Zvonareva in the semifinals. Clijsters beat Zvonareva 6-3, 6-3 and Zvonareva was never really in the match. Clijsters is converting 71.8% of her first serves into winners. Clijsters has 6 aces and 17 double faults. during the tournament. She has 28 service breaks in the tournament. Clijsters is averaging 20.8 winners and 24.7 unforced errors per match.
These two women are playing some of the best tennis of their careers. Bodog has Clijsters as a heavy favorite in the match. Clijsters is -330 and Li +250. I really think these two are more evenly matched than that. Clijsters is such a heavy favorite mainly because of her name recognition over Li. I like Li to pull off the upset and make history.
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