Victoria Azarenka vs. Li Na: Belarusian Needs Win to Cement World No. 1 Ranking

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIJanuary 24, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24:  Victoria Azarenka of Belarus speaks during a press conference after she won her Semifinal against Sloane Stephens of the United States during day eleven of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

On the tail of a controversial win, women's world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka will head to the singles finals in Melbourne to face Li Na in what's sure to be a great match.

If Azarenka can win the Australian Open, it will mark her second Grand Slam in a year, the other being her win in Melbourne in 2012.

It was at that same time that the Belarusian was awarded her No. 1 world ranking.

Since then, Azarenka has been somewhat quiet on the court. She failed to win any other Grand Slams in 2012, making it to the finals in just one—the US Open, in which she lost to Serena Williams.

The only other major achievement for the women's No. 1 last year was making it to the semifinals during the Summer Olympics, where she once again lost to Serena Williams.

To close out the year, Azarenka made it to the semifinals in the WTA Tour Championships where she once again lost, this time to current world No. 2 Maria Sharapova.

While Azarenka has had an impressive year, it was equally impressive for Maria Sharapova (world No. 2) and Serena Williams (world No. 3).

Now, this isn't to say that Azarenka is undeserving. She was 21-3 in her 2012 Grand slam matches, and a semifinal finish at the Summer Olympics is surely something to be proud of.

But her inability to beat the other elite players has been an issue. And now that there's controversy over her win against Sloane Stephens in the semifinals, she needs a win more than ever.

Her opponent, China's Li Na, has a name that is carrying plenty of weight in this year's Australian Open.

Na comes into the finals hot, having won all of her matches in two sets. That includes upsets over world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova.

She enters the finals at Melbourne ranked No. 6 overall.

It was an exciting, albeit disappointing, 2012 for Azarenka. If the world No. 1 would like to start 2013 off on the right foot—as well as keep her ranking—beating Na is a must.

If Azarenka can finish strong in Australia, then her status should be secure for another year.