Friday, 27 January 2012

Australian Open women's final preview

Victoria Azarenka
The Australian Open final will be contested between the number three seed, Victoria Azarenka and the number four seed, Maria Sharapova.  Azarenka has had a fantastic tournament so far losing just two sets along the way.  The two lost sets came in her last two matches against Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarter-finals and Kim Clijsters in the semi-finals.  Her tennis has been extremely solid and she has carried through with her more positive attitude on court, which was particularly evident in her last match with Clijsters.  Azarenka is still yet to lose a match in 2012 having won the tournament in Sydney; however her opponent in Sharapova is also unbeaten in 2012 following a magical run to the finals for the loss of two sets.  Sharapova has got to this stage with some dominant performances in the first three rounds and then showing her gritty determination in three set victories over Sabine Lisicki in the 4th round and Petra Kvitova in the semi-finals.  I do not think she has been playing her best tennis and her serve still looks a little shaky under pressure, but the way she has come into this tournament without any matches under her belt and reached her third Australian Open final has been mightily impressive from the Russian.

Maria Sharapova
Sharapova and Azarenka have played each other six times with the head-to-head split at three wins each.  Sharapova won their previous encounter last year in Rome through a retirement, but Azarenka won the two matches before that in straight sets in the 2010 Stanford final and the 2011 Miami final.  Normally, I am on the fence as to who I think is going to win, but I can categorically say that I think Azarenka will win her first Grand Slam title.  I predicted Azarenka from the start of the competition and feel that this is her time to make that breakthrough on the big stage.  She lacks the experience that Sharapova will have off Grand Slam finals, but she has the dogged determination and improved mental strength to deal with these situations.  Azarenka also has a surprisingly good record over Sharapova and can deal with her powerful game.

When I looked at the four potential finals when the semi-finalists were set, this was the match I least wanted as the final. This is because the grunting and shrieking is very likely to detract attention from the actual quality of the match.  Hopefully Sharapova and Azarenka can put on a good match and this final will be remembered for the tennis and not as the loudest Grand Slam final in history! It is also important to note that the winner will take the world number one spot from Caroline Wozniacki who is likely to fall to number 4 in the new rankings next week.  I hope its a competitive final as I always do, but I both think and want Azarenka to win :-)

Prediction - Victoria Azarenka to win in 2 sets

Please feel free to leave your predictions for the women's final :-) 

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