Australian Open Women’s Final – Victoria Azarenka vs. Li Na
In truth, just a few days ago, neither of these two women were favoured by the bookmakers to reach this stage of the competition. So, those who had backed them with their tennis picks may have made a pretty penny.
Given the record that each has in Melbourne, it’s perhaps no major surprise to see them facing off for the title.
Despite winning the 2011 French Open and reaching the final here in the same year, Li Na managed to come in very much under the radar right through until the semi-finals of this event.
The Chinese 30-year-old opened up her campaign with a straight sets victory over Karatantcheva and moved easily through the remainder of the opening week, without the loss of a set.
A fourth round meeting with Goerges looked like it could be a stumbling block as she was taken to a tense tie-breaker in the opening set, but after squeezing through that one, she won the second set more comfortably and booked herself a quarter-final meeting with Radwanska.
Having played so well and looked so comfortable up to that point, Radwanska was favoured for victory against Li Na, but the Chinese world no.6 wore down the Pole and continued her run of straight sets victories in the event.
A semi-final meeting with Maria Sharapova would surely be the end of the line for Li Na. Sharapova had been in irresistible form throughout, hadn’t lost a set and had only lost a handful of games across the entire tournament. Again though, Li Na managed to just wear down her opponent and as soon as things started to go wrong for the Russian, her confidence seemed to evaporate and Li Na had booked herself a place in the final.
The defending champion and current world no.1 would probably have been a little worried to see Serena Williams fall into the same half of the draw here in Melbourne. Serena Williams had been on an unbelievable run since winning Wimbledon last June and despite us here at SBR tipping the Belarusian as the best value bet in the draw, the bookmakers had Serena as the big favourite.
Azarenka did her part of the job; making her way comfortably through to the semi-finals for the loss of just one, third round set.
The expectation was that Azarenka would meet Serena in the semis and the winner (probably Serena) would go on to meet Sharapova in the final.
Of course, it didn’t work out quite the way everyone expected and when Sloane Stephens defeated Serena Williams in the quarters, the tournament suddenly opened up for all remaining women and Azarenka confidently booked her place in the final with a straight sets victory of Stephens.
These two have met on nine previous occasions and it’s Azarenka who holds a slender, 5-4 advantage.
The most worrying factor for Li Na is that Azarenka has won their last four meetings, three of which came in 2012, most recently at the end of year tour finals in Istanbul. Like this one, their previous meeting came on hard courts and Azarenka won in straight sets. In fact, across their last four hard court meetings, Li Na has only managed to pick up one set.
Considering how comfortable Li Na was against Radwanska and Sharapova, there’s not much likelihood of this one being an easy victory for Azarenka.
The Belarusian was complaining of a rib injury towards the end of her semi-final with Stephens and if she doesn’t come into this one fully fit, it will be a tough ask for her to win.
Having tipped Azarenka from the start I’m going to stick with her for this one. She is seven years the junior of Li Na and should have the confidence of being a defending champion and world no.1 to pick her up if things start going wrong. It could be a long one, but following her disappointment against Serena in the US Open final last September, I’m expecting Victoria Azarenka to walk away with her second Grand Slam title on Saturday night in Melbourne.
Tennis Betting Tips:
Azarenka to win – 8/11 betting odds - BetVictor
Total sets – 3 – 6/4 - BlueSQ