It isn't very often that we're surprised to see the world No. 1—and defending Australian Open champ—cruise her way to the final in Melbourne.
But that's where we are with Victoria Azarenka.
That isn't to say the 23-year-old, who made it to the Wimbledon semifinal and US Open final in addition to the Australian Open last year, isn't talented. That's far from the truth.
It's just that Serena Williams entered Australia as the overwhelming favorite who was sure to stop the Belarusian's hot streak.
Unfortunately for the defending U.S. Open champ, a 19-year-old American and an ankle the size of a beach ball had other plans.
Thus, here we are. Serena, the favorite, is gone. Azarenka, the "underdog", is still here, and she'll be taking on Li Na, who flew through the tournament under the radar until her impressive, dominant win over No. 2 Maria Sharapova.
Let's break it down.
Australian Open History
You know what Azarenka's done here. After being ousted by none other than Li Na in 2011, the young righty has racked up 13 straight wins on the hallowed hard courts at Melbourne Park.
Last year, en route to her first career Grand Slam title, Azarenka was taken to three sets by only Agnieszka Radwanska and Kim Clijsters. In the final, she blew through Sharapova and even put a bagel on her in the defining set.
This year, only Jamie Hampton has taken Azarenka the distance, and she's only lost more than one game in a set six times in six total matches.
Overall, she is now 27-6 here.
Li hasn't walked away from Rod Laver with a title yet, but she's been just as successful as her upcoming opponent.
In 2011, the year she knocked off Azarenka, Li advanced to the final, where she came up just short against Kim Clijsters. Last year, she once again fell to Clijsters—this time in the fourth round.
But this go-round, Li isn't fooling around. She has yet to be taken to a third set, and in her win against Sharapova, who looked masterful in her first five matches, she absolutely destroyed the world No. 2, 6-2, 6-2.
Li is 27-7 in Australia with three semifinal appearances in the last four years.
We mentioned that Li knocked off Azarenka during their only other Australian Open match two years ago. In that one, she broke the Belarusian an astounding five times en route to a straight-set victory.
Li went on to beat Azarenka at the French Open the same year, but since then, it's been all Victoria.
The world No. 1 has beaten Li four straight times, although only one of those—a three-set win in Sydney last year—came on an outdoor hard court.
Overall, Azarenka has won five of the nine total meetings.
You might think Azarenka holds the advantage here simply because she stands 6'0", while Li is merely 5'7".
But through six matches this tournament, the Belarusian has 12 aces to Na's 16.
Moreover, while Azarenka has been winning a larger percentage of her first serves, Li is winning a far larger percentage of her second serves because of the great spin she puts on the ball.
In fact, the 30-year-old is winning more than 50 percent of all her second serves, while Azarenka won more than half of her second serves in only her first-round match against Monica Niculescu.
Azarenka has been slightly better than Na in this aspect. Through six rounds, she is averaging six breaks per match, while Na is "only" averaging 5.3.
Additionally, Azarenka is more adept at sitting back and playing defense. She is averaging just 22.2 unforced errors this tournament, while Li, as she tends to do, has struggled with her consistency. She has made 27 errors per match and committed 40 against Agnieszka Radwanska.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!