<Result: Azarenka in three sets.>
The women's finalists for the 2013 Australian Open are known as bothand Li Na won their semifinal matches at Melbourne Park on Thursday. As a result, the two players will meet in Saturday's final with the championship title for the first Grand Slam of the year on the line.
Azarenka won her semifinal at the expense of teenaged American Sloane Stephens, the Cinderella story of the women's draw who defeatedin the quarterfinals. Li advanced to the final through , a player whose form appeared frightening prior to her loss to Li.
Azarenka and Li have had different careers but they certainly have some things in common when it comes to their Grand Slam histories. They both will be playing in their third major final and each player enters the 2013 Australian Open championship match with a 1-1 record in Grand Slam finals. Azarenka won the 2012 Australian Open and lost in the final of the 2012 US Open. Li won the 2011and lost in the final of the Aussie two years ago.
But where the players look similar from one perspective, they look quite different from another. Li is 30 years old while Azarenka is still just 23. The Chinese star has showcased her best tennis only in her late 20s and now her early 30s while Azarenka is much more of an early bloomer. In comparison, when Li was 23 years old at the Australian Open in 2006, she fell in the first round and was a non-factor on tour who had just two match-wins in Grand Slam singles to her credit in her entire career.
Youth is on Azarenka's side and arguably so is superior skill as the World No. 1 looks down at Li in the rankings.
At first glance the head-to-head history between the two players suggests that their match this weekend could be tight. Azarenka holds the lead in that series but only at 5-4. Li will surely ground some confidence in the fact that she beat Azarenka in 2011 at Melbourne Park but a closer look at their series shows that the current World No. 1 has won four straight against Li.
The final promises to be epic as Azarenka looks to defend her title against a player who appears to be emerging once again.
Prediction: Li wins.