As far as I'm concerned, the upcoming Australian Open women's final is as good a match-up as we could ask for. It's always nice to see a defending champion return to the final, and who better to challenge her than the ever-evolving Li Na? Li, who says she's leaning to be cool "like Hollywood" on the court, is working with Carlos Rodriguez, former coach of the great Justine Henin. Henin also had to learn to be cool; in the early part of her career, she was known as a major choker. (She also didn't want to be anywhere near the net, so it's obvious how much influence Rodriguez had on her.)
There has already been talk about whether Li can handle her nerves for two big matches in a row (they were nowhere to be seen when she dominated Maria Sharapova in the semifinals), but now--after Azarenka's obvious bout with anxiety in her own semifinal--it's fair to question whether "old Vika" will make an appearance on Rod Laver Arena.
The Australian Open hard court is ideal for Azarenka's style of play. Hard courts have always been the kindest to Li, also (well, except for that French Open win). The two have played each other nine times, and Azarenka has won five of those contests. More significantly, she has beaten Li in the last four times they have played. Azarenka also leads 4-3 in hard court matches.
Here are the opponents' paths to the final:
round 1--def. Monica Niculescu
round 2--def. Eleni Daniilidou
round 3--def. Jamie Hampton
round of 16--def. Elena Vesnina
quarterfinals--def. Svetlana Kuznetsova
semifinals--def. Sloane Stephens
round 1--def. Sesil Karatantcheva
round 2--def. Olga Govortsova
round 3--def. Sorana Cirstea
round of 16--def. Julia Goerges (18)
quarterfinals--def. Agnieszka Radwanska (4)
semifinals--def. Maria Sharapova (2)
An update in mixed doubles: Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden advanced to the final by defeating Yaroslava Shvedova and Denis Istomin. Also advancing to the final were Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak. They defeated Kveta Peschke and Marcin Matkowski.
In the women's wheelchair singles semifinals, top seed Aniek Van Koot defeated Marjolein Buis, and 2nd seed Lucy Shuker defeated Sabine Ellerbrock. Van Koot and partner Jiske Griffioen won the title by defeating Shuker and Buis 6-4, 6-3 in the final.
2nd seed Katerina Siniakova will play 3rd seed Ana Konjuh for the junior girls title. Konjuh and Carol Zhao won the doubles title when they beat Oleksandra Korashvili and Barbora Krejcikova in the final. Zhao and Konjuh were the top seeds.