(The result for this match has been included, and updated Changeover Staff Standings can be found at the bottom of this post – what do you know…Amy increased her lead!)
Final: Victoria Azarenka vs. Li Na
Time: 3:30 a.m. Eastern – Saturday, January 26th
Head to Head: 5-4, Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka won, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 – Read all about it here!
Amy: I’ve been impressed with Li Na’s composure in this run to the Australian Open final. She’s played her best tennis, and produced some remarkably drama-free wins.
But there’s a reason Victoria Azarenka is ranked No. 1. One of those reasons is because she tore up the competition last year in Melbourne. Azarenka plays well at this tournament, and seems to flourish in the role of the villain when the Aussie crowd is against her. As a tremendous competitor, I fully expect her to channel her frustration over the medical timeout controversy into playing her best in the final.
Tennis-wise, I trust Azarenka more than I trust Li. That’s why I’m going to have to go with Azarenka in three sets.
Juan José: It’s the Year of Li Na, and I’ve come to grips with it. Yes, I know that Azarenka has won the last four meetings against the Chinese No. 1, but do head-to-heads even matter anymore when picking Li Na matches? After all, we saw what the 30-year-old did to Sharapova the other day: Sugarpova’s CEO had won the last three meetings against Li Na before getting dismantled 2 and 2 the other day.
The other thing is, Azarenka will face a tough, hostile crowd tonight – the kind she hasn’t seen before (and that’s saying something, given her apparent lack of popularity). And seeing how much trouble the Belarusian had to close out Sloane Stephens (those missed match points were pretty sad), I’m not sure the World No. 1 will have it in her to close out an experienced, determined opponent.
Lastly, Li Na has a great coach in her corner, who will surely get her in the perfect frame of mind to face this new challenge. And Li Na has been at the Australian Open final before, and there’s something positive about a veteran like her getting a second shot at a big title she lost in the past. Back in 2011, the Mercedes Benz ambassador hadn’t been to a Slam final before. Two years later, she has the confidence of not only having not only made another big final, but of winning it. I think Li Na will take her chance, and win the Australian Open in straight sets.
Lindsay: My grandmother’s best (and, well, only) advice to me was to “leave with the one who brought you.” Basically, in her days she and her crew would go to a lot of dances, and she would dance with all the boys, but it was okay as long as she left the dance with the boy who brought her. I’ve never been able to apply this advice to anything other than dances before, but suddenly I’m seeing what she meant. I declared this the year of Li Na two weeks ago. Then I proceeded to pick other people to beat her and to win the tournament. But maybe I can make it okay if I pick her in the final match and we can leave this crazy tournament hand-in-hand as winners. My grandmother would be so proud.
To be honest I am tempted to pick Azarenka because I think that underestimating her is silly (see: last year’s final), and I think that with everything going on off-court she will want to bury herself in tennis like she has so many times before. Plus, it’s not going to be hot like it was on Thursday which will be a big advantage. And she’s World No. 1 for a reason, and has to know that playing in a Grand Slam final vs. someone not named Serena Williams is an opportunity .
But the crowd will be hostile. And dealing with the media the last two days has had to be exhausting. And — probably most importantly — she did not seem healthy mentally or physically in that second set vs. Sloane. And, I mean, if Li Na plays even half as well as she did during her match against Sharapova, then Azarenka is in for a tough ride.
Li Na in three. The Year of Li Na.
P.S: I’ve been very disturbed by the ‘comic vs. villain’ set-up of this match by the media. I wrote about it in my match preview for 10sWorld: Li Na vs. Victoria Azarenka: A Look Beyond the Archetypes.
1. Amy: 13-2 Matches with Correct Number of Sets Picked: 8
2. Juan José: 10-5 Matches with Correct Number of Sets Picked: 5
3. Lindsay: 9-6 Matches with Correct Number of Sets Picked: 7