Victoria Azarenka enters the match as the defending champion and probably the favourite for the title match. On line will be her title and the top spot.
Li Na enters the match in very hot form and with the passion and drive to win her first Australian Open grand slam. It is Australian Open where she has had the most success in her career.
Azarenka leads Li in their head to head encounters 5-4, having won the previous 4 encounters. However, it is Li who has won the pair's meeting sin grand slams, having won in 2011 Australian Open and 2011 French Open.
Azarenka has not faced a top 25 opponent so far in the tournament. The highest ranked player she defeated was Sloane Stephens in the semi-finals. This is not to take anything away from her, of course she can only beat the one who comes across the net, and it is none of her fault that all the top seeds in her quarter and half of the draw fell early.
Li, on the other hand has handled world no.4, Agnieszka Radwanska and world no.2 Maria Sharapova, in straight sets in the quarter-finals and the semi-finals. She was particularly tested in her quarter-final win over Radwanska in the first set. The way Li played against Sharapova must make her feel good and confident about where her game stands.
Li has yet to drop a set, while Azarenka lost a set in her 3rd round win over Jamie Hampton.
Let us have a look at what do the numbers tell us about their game so far in the tournament.
The stats used have been average stats for the 6 matches played by players so far in the tournament.
|1st Serve %age||70%||66%|
|1st serve points won||66%||64%|
|2nd serve points won||46%||53%|
|Net points won||72%||69%|
|Break points won||63%||70%|
|1st serve return won||48%||48%|
|2nd serve return won||74%||67%|
The match will come down to a few things:
Serve and Return
Azarenka has been serving at a good 70% and has won on average 66% points behind her first serve. Li has been returning well, she has won 48% points while returning the first serve of her opponents. Azarenka is prone to double faults, and she has actually had more double faults than aces, averaging 3 more double faults than aces in her previous 6 matches. Azarenka's second serve has been poor, since she has won only 46% points behind her second serve, while Li has won 67% points while returning the second serves of her opponents. Azarenka will have to be very sharp and keep her first serve up to give as little chance to Li as possible.
Li has been serving at 66% and has won 64% points behind her first serve, Azarenka has won 48% points (same as Li) when returning the first serve of her opponents. However, Li will have to be very cautious on her second serve, since Azarenka has literally been gulping the second serves of her opponents winning 74% points when returning the second points of her opponents. Li has won 53% points on her second serve.
Winners- Unforced Errors
Azarenka has been playing cleaner matches as compared to Li, she a winners-unforced errors differential of -1, while Li has a -6 differential. The player who will keep her act clean will definitely have a greater edge than the other just like we saw in the quarter-final and semi-final wins of both Azarneka and Li.
Break Points conversion
Break points will be very crucial for both players, as we noted in Li Na's win over Sharapova, where Sharapova had a lot of chances to claw her way back into the match but she was unable to capitalise on those break point chances, so the player who strikes first and capitalises on her chances will definitely be in a better position to win the title.
Azarenka has shown nerves in her matches. She got tight against Hampton, she got nervous in the first set of her quarter-final match against Kuznetsova, she got nervous against Stephens and got broken when she was serving for the match and took a medical time out after that. Li, showed some nerves in her first set against Radwanska, and in the first set of her 4th round win over Goerges, but other than that she has been calm so far.
An important thing to note is Li is only 10-66 in matches that have gone to a third set in her entire career, while Azarneka is 64-66.
It will all come down to the serve and nerve. The player who handles both things better will stand a better chance.
Both players complimented each other:
"She is doing so well all year. Also, she is the defending champion. For me, nothing really to lose. Just really have to enjoy the match." said Li Na about Azarenka
"I think she is in incredible form right now really. You know in the finals anything can happen. It looks like she improved a lot. Will be a tough match, so I am really looking forward to it." Azarenka on Li Na.
I am tempted to pick Azarenka in 3 sets, but I love Li Na, and would love to see her winning the title, so I will leave it to you people this time.
Who are you rooting for and who are you betting on?