The 2013 Australian Open women’s final begins at 8.30am UK time on Saturday and we haven’t been given the final that many expected. With neither Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova performing at the crunch moments, it’s Na Li versus Vika Azarenka for the trophy.
Azarenka has won the last four meetings between the pair – two on indoor hard, one on clay and one on outdoor hard - and the defending champion is the slight favourite again this time at around 1.77. The world number one was a much heavier favourite in those four recent meetings against Li; she was around 1.23 when she began their most recent match, in Istanbul at the end of last season.
The reason for the bigger price, I would imagine, is two-fold. Firstly, Na Li has shown impressive form in crushing Maria Sharapova and Aga Radwanska, and secondly, Azarenka's physical condition is questionable. In her controversial semi-final victory over Sloane Stephens, Azarenka was clearly suffering from some sort of problem, be it mental or physical, and she may not be in the best condition for tomorrow morning’s final.
Azarenka was claiming rib and ankle injuries in the Stephens match, although she initially stated to on-court interviewer Sam Smith straight after the match that she “choked” after failing with a number of match points. So who knows what sort of condition she’ll be in when she takes to the Rod Laver Arena.
The last time that this pair met here in Melbourne - in the fourth round in 2011 - it was Na Li who ran out a straight sets winner, and the Chinese star does tend to play her best tennis here in her home Grand Slam. She did also beat Vika in four of the first five matches they played and in this most unpredictable of women’s tournaments this year it’s worth siding with the underdog I think.
Li looks to have peaked at the right time for this match and I have been more impressed with her than Azarenka in this tournament, so in what is essentially a pick ‘em match I’m going with the value on Na Li.
Best bet: Back Na Li to beat Azarenka at 2.05