Australian Open women’s final: Maria Sharapova vs. Victoria Azarenka
Not only is the first Grand Slam title of the season on the line Saturday in Melbourne (Friday night U.S. time) when Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka face off in the Australian Open women’s final, but the winner also will replace Caroline Wozniacki as the No. 1 player in the world. Azarenka is the -140 tennis bets favorite on WagerWeb.com.
Sharapova, the 2008 Australian Open winner, beat reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova’s serve in the last game to finish off a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory in the semis. Azarenka beat defending Aussie Open champion Kim Clijsters 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, twice recovering from periods in which a resurgent Clijsters seemed to have the upper hand, breaking the veteran Belgian’s serve three times in the third set to secure victory in only her second appearance in a major semifinal. Azarenka has won 11 matches in a row after claiming the Sydney International title ahead of the Australian Open.
Sharapova is a three-time Grand Slam champion but hasn’t won one since that 2008 Aussie title; her other titles are at Wimbledon in 2004 and the 2006 U.S. Open.
Azarenka and Sharapova have played six times in their careers, with each winning three. However, Azarenka won the past two meetings on hard courts, the most recent in the 2011 Miami tournament where the Belarusian won 6-1, 6-4. But their most recent meeting was last spring in the clay in Rome, with Sharapova winning when Azarenka withdrew in the second set with an injury.
If Azarenka wins the final, she would be only the third player to rise to the top ranking after her first Grand Slam win. Martina Navratilova rose to No. 1 for the first time after winning Wimbledon in 1978, while Ana Ivanovic did the same after winning the 2008 French Open.
A win by Sharapova would mark the fourth time in the Russian’s career that she’s held the top ranking, the most recent in June 2008. Overall, she’s been No. 1 for 17 nonconsecutive weeks.
Expect a noisy final as these are the two loudest “grunters” on the tour. Decibel counters set up at Melbourne Park this week have measured Azarenka’s wail at 91.4, while Sharapova is understood to have reached 98. At her peak, the Russian has been recorded at an ear-splitting 105.
“We are in the process of exploring how to reduce excessive grunting, especially for younger players just starting out, without adversely affecting players who have developed their game under current training, rules and procedures,” a spokeswoman said