Aussie Open: Day 13 Preview

Rob YorkSenior Writer INovember 27, 2016

Night Session

Serena Williams (USA) [2] vs.  Dinara Safina (RUS) [3]

For fans of women’s tennis, watching an in-form Serena Williams is like viewing one’s favorite film for the 10th time: Since you already know how it will end, the fun is in reliving how the finale arrives.

Williams is a one-in-a-billion athlete who cannot be touched when she’s at her best. Though her play has wavered at times in this year’s Australian Open, it has not been enough to knock her out of the tournament. In her fourth round match against the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka she was down a set, but had taken the lead in the second before her opponent withdrew due to illness.

Against Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarters, she again dropped the first set, only to outduel her opponent in the second and win the third going away. In the semis she faced Elena Dementieva, whose ball-striking abilities may exceed even Williams’, but the American’s superior serving and athleticism helped her through the match in straight sets.

As she and sister Venus completed their domination of the doubles competition (dropping only one set along the way), Williams is one singles match from completing a doubly fine Australian outing. Her last obstacle will be her third Russian opponent in a row.

Through much of her career, the 22-year-old Dinara Safina has been best-known as the little sister of Marat Safin, the 2005 AO men’s champion. Like her big brother, Safina is big (5’11) and hits a big ball. She has also struggled at times in this event, needing three sets to end the fairy tale run of Jelena Dokic in the quarters, and being pushed to a 7-5 third set by Alize Cornet in the fourth round.

She regrouped nicely for the semis, however, bouncing compatriot Vera Zvonareva in straight sets.

This event has served as a reminder of Safina’s great progress in the last year: She has won four titles since May, also reaching the final of Roland Garros and the semis of the U.S. Open.

Unfortunately for the Russian, the one who dismissed her in New York is also her final opponent in this event. Williams has a 5-2 career edge against Safina, and one of the Russian’s wins came in a walkover.

The winner of this match will be the new women’s No. 1. We’re betting that it will be Williams, who will take her fourth AO and 10th singles major. She hasn’t played her best to get this far, but the last time she scrapped her way to final in Melbourne she blew Maria Sharapova off the court in the championship match. 

Safina’s only chance is that Williams comes out misfiring, but as in the match with Kuznetsova, losing the first set may only serve to wake her up. We doubt it’ll come to that, though.

Williams will win this match in straights. Check it out to see how that finale comes, however; if it goes really well, maybe she’ll be feeling generous enough to give Andy Roddick that rematch.