Here we are – the 2013 WTA Australian Open Final! What a great tournament it’s been. We’ve seen Serena’s ankle swell up to the size of a grapefruit, the rise of Sloane Stephens and other relatively unknown players, questionable medical timeouts in crucial parts of matches and the resurgence of Na Li. Plenty has happened.
Best Bet: Over 21.5 games @ $1.73 (Sportsbet)
V. Azarenka (1) v N. Li (7)
In the last few rounds I’ve had my doubts about Na Li, particularly with her high error counts in some matches, however apart from the error count it has been obvious that Li has definitely improved in many other aspects of her game under new coach Carlos Rodriguez. The win over Sharapova in the semi-final was an impressive one – not just because of the 6-2 6-2 result, not just because of the lower error count, and not just because Li powered forehands and backhands past Sharapova with ease. The most impressive thing about Li’s win was the fact she held her game together, even when she was clearly on top. The 2011/12 Li would often begin a match with a bang, establish a good break, and then let her opponent back into the game. The 2013 Li appears to have vastly improved on this issue.
Azarenka enters the final coming off an easy win over the nervous debutante Sloane Stephens. While Azarenka controlled the match for the most part, the match wasn’t without controversy. Azarenka lead 5-3, 40-15 before we watched 5 match points go by before eventually Stephens landed several smashing winners to break back. Azarenka then called for a trainer and was taken off court for a medical timeout while Stephens was left waiting for close to 10 minutes before resuming. We all know what happened from there. Let’s just call it as it is – in my opinion the medical timeout was not a legitimate medical timeout – it was an obvious tactic to throw Stephens off her game. This, from a world number 1, against a 19 year old who was ranked 94 just 3 months ago. To me, this shows a lack of confidence from Azarenka which is somewhat worrying.
Head to head, Azarenka and Li have met 7 times. 4 of those 7 have gone to 3 sets and well over the over line. Of their 5 meetings on hard court, 3 of them have gone to 3 sets. I think this match will be a close one the best option here is over 21.5 games. While Azarenka has only been pushed to 3 sets once this tournament and Li has closed all games in 2, being the final I think both players will keep things tight and cancel each other out in the early stages. Li might give away a set if she gives away too many easy points with errors, but if Li can continue to keep a cool head during the match as she has done while winning she might just take the 2013 Australian Open trophy.
If I needed to pick a winner, it would be Li, but my money is on the safer option of over 21.5 games @ $1.73 (Sportsbet)
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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Photo By Christopher Johnson [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons