Tuesday 8 January 2013

Li Na and Australian Open 2013

Li Na is on a hot streak, a 7 match winning streak and into the quarter-finals of Sydney, where she will be playing the young Amercian Madison Keys who took out Safarova and Zheng to book a meeting with Li.
The Melbourne tennis courts bring out the best in Li Na, she went all the way to capture the Sydney title in 2011, defeating Kim Clijsters in the final, and then went on to reach the final of the Australian Open to set up a re-match with Kim Clijsters, only to lose in 3 sets this time.
So, what are the chances of Li Na going deep into the Australian Open.

Li Na and Australian Open – Based on the past results of the 6th seeds

Li will not be  happy to know that a 6th seed has never won Australian Open since 1988, when the surface of the court was changed from grass to hard court. However, a 6th seed has been to the final before but that too was way back in 1990, when Mary Joe Fernandez went on to reach the final (the most memorable match was her quarter-final win over Zina Garrison, then seeded no.3, Fernandez won the match 8-6 in the 3rd set). However, she lost the final in straight sets to the then top seed Steffi Graf.
It has been more than 10 years, when a 6th seed made it to the semi-finals. In-fact over the course of last 25 years, a 6th seed has been to the semi-finals of Australian Open only thrice, going 1-2 in the semi-finals. The other two players to make it to the semi-finals were Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in 1991, she lost in the semi-finals in straight sets at the hands of Jana Novotna, and Monica Seles in 1999. Seles defeated the then 10th seeded Graf in the quarter-finals, but lost in straight sets to eventual champion Martina Hingis in the semi-finals in straight sets.
Based on the past results of the 6th seeds, Li has a good 52% chance of making it to the quarter-finals or better. A 6th seed has been to the quarter-finals 13 times in the past 25 years, going 3-10 in the quarter-finals.

Li Na and Australian Open – Based on the Li’s past performances at Australian Open

Li is a good 21-7 in the Australian Open. Of the 7 loses Li suffered on the tennis courts of Melbourne, one has come at the hands of 2008 Australian Open champion, Maria Sharapova (3rd round in 2005, Sharapova was seeded 4th), 2 have come at the hands of 5 time Australian Open champion (2006 in first round and 2010 in semi-finals), one has come at the hands 3 time Australian Open champion, Martina Hingis (4th round in 2007, Hingis was seeded 7th), 2 have come at the hands of 2011 Australian Open champion, Kim Clijsters (Final in 2011 and 4th round in 2012).

Li has lost only once to a player who has not won Australian Open. The loss came in 2008 in the 3rd round when Li Na lost to qualifier Marta Domachowska in the 3rd round.
Li Na will be playing her quarter-final match in Sydney tomorrow, with a possible semi-final clash against world no.4 Radwanska.

Given the history of Li Na at the Australian Open and her current form, you have to like her chances. She is one of the few players who can give Serena a run for money.

Li Na has been to the final of Australian Open and has won French Open, so she knows what it is like playing at the grand stages and what it takes to win a grand slam. She has the fire power, the athleticism and the shots required to win a grand slam. 

The only questions will be, will she be able to remain focused and mentally strong for 7 matches in 2 weeks at the age of 30, when she is coming off two consecutive weeks of playing tournaments? I guess, we will have to wait and see.

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