Our first Grand Slam singles winner will be crowned this evening from Melbourne. Defending champion Victoria Azarenka will meet former finalist Li Na for the Australian Open women’s singles title.
Azarenka, who was a controversial winner in a her semifinal victory over Sloane Stephens, has lost just one set entering the final, and the top seed hasn’t lost a match this year (she did withdrew to Serena Williams before they Brisbane match). However, the highest ranked player she’s faced was No. 25 Stephens.
Li Na, a finalist in 2011 and a semifinalist in 2010, won the French Open in 2011 and like Azarenka, she too is bidding for her second career Grand Slam win. The 30-year-old has beaten two top 5 players Agnieszka Radwanksa and Maria Sharapova both in straight sets to reach tonight’s title match.
“Last time,” Li Na said yesterday, “is more exciting, nervous, because first time to be in final. But I think this time more calmed down, more cool little bit.”
Azarenka has leads Li Na 5-4 winning four straight, but Li Na is 2-0 in Grand Slam matches.
“Last year she was doing very well for all the year, so is not easy for the athlete,” Li Na said of her opponent. “So for her is tough match. I mean, she have tough matches here, as well. She was defending champion. For me, really how you say, really have to enjoy for the moment.”
 VICTORIA AZARENKA (BLR #1) vs.  LI NA (CHN #6)
Head-to-head: Azarenka leads 5-4
The winner of the 2012 Australian Open will join Serena Williams (15), Venus Williams (7), Maria Sharapova (4) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (2) as the only active players with 2 or more Grand Slam titles.
Both finalists are contesting the Australian Open title bout for the second time.
Since 2009, Azarenka is 40-5 in the month of January and her last 20-straight matches in the month; her last loss in January came at 2011 Australian Open R16 (l. Li).
Seven different players have successfully defended the title at the Australian Open: Court, Goolagong, Graf, Seles, Hingis, Capriati and, most recently, S.Williams (2009-10).
The top seed has won the title 18 times.
The Australian Open finals have been decided in 3 sets 12 times.
Time spent on court at this tournament: Azarenka – 8hr47min compared to Li – 8hr32min.
Azarenka is 73-5 at Grand Slams when winning first set; her last loss in a GS match when winning the first set came at 2010 Australian Open (QF, l. S.Williams 46 76(4) 62); since then she has won 41-straight when winning the first set at a Slam.
Li is 59-7 at Grand Slams when winning the first set.
Azarenka has won 13-straight matches here in Melbourne; last year she started the year by winning her first 26 matches If Azarenka wins the title, she will retain the world No.1 ranking; is she loses in the final, she will dip to No.2; she is defending 4150 points through March.
Azarenka owns a 60-9 match record while holding the world No.1 ranking.
Azarenka withdrew prior to her Brisbane SF match (right big toe injury) in her only event heading into the Australian Open.
This is the third consecutive Slam that Azarenka has been the top seed.
If Azarenka wins she will reclaim the No. 1 ranking. If she loses Serena Williams returns to No. 1.
At 30 years, 335 days (based on the tournament end date), Li would be the oldest woman to win the Australian Open singles.
As a result of her success this week, Li will return to the Top 5 (from No.6 to 5) after the Australian Open Li won back-to-back matches vs. Top 5 opponents by defeating world No.4 A.Radwanska (QF) and No.2 Sharapova (SF); she now has 20 career wins vs. Top 5 opponents (20-31) and is 7-8 since the start of 2012.
Li is 2-7 all-time vs. world No.1s with wins over S.Williams (2008 Stuttgart) and Wozniacki (2011 Australian Open).
Li is trying to become the first player to defeat the world No.1 and No.2 at the same Grand Slam event for the first time since 2009 Roland Garros (Kuznetsova d. No.2 S.Williams in QF and No.1 Safina in F). The last player to achieve this feat at the Australian Open was S.Williams in 2005 (d. No.2 Mauresmo in QF and No.1 Davenport in F) title. She will celebrate her 31st birthday on February 26.
SATURDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 12:30 PM Start Time
1. Junior Girls’ Singles – Final
Ana Konjuh (CRO) v. Katerina Siniakova (CZE)
Not Before:2:30 PM
2. Junior Boys’ Singles – Final
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) v. Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)
Not Before:7:30 PM
3. Women’s Singles – Final
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v. Na Li (CHN)
4. Men’s Doubles – Final
Bob Bryan (USA)/Mike Bryan (USA) v. Robin Haase (NED)/Igor Sijsling (NED)
Victoria Azarenka 8/11 v Li Na 11/10
WEATHERUNDERGROUND MELBOURNE FORECAST
Partly cloudy. High of 70F. Winds from the South at 5 to 15 mph.
ESPN has live coverage starting at 3:30am Saturday morning.
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