Victoria Azarenka vs. Li Na: What Win Means for Vika
Winning two straight Australian Open titles is an amazing accomplishment, but there is still something missing in Victoria Azarenka's most recent victory.
Li Na played great throughout the tournament, and she deserves credit for reaching the final, but she represented one of the easiest possible opponents for Azarenka in the women's finale.
Though she did what was required of her to emerge victorious in Melbourne, the No. 1-seeded Azarenka was fortunate to avoid head-to-head battles with No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova and No. 3 seed Serena Williams.
For Azarenka, beating Sharapova isn't quite as big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Sharapova had been playing well before she ran into Na—her own personal nemesis—in the semifinals, but Azarenka has held a slight edge over the Russian.
Still, a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup would have been a more appealing final.
Avoiding a semifinal meeting with Williams is likely the reason Azarenka won the tournament. Williams injured her back in the second set of her upset loss to the up-and-coming Sloane Stephens.
Williams had captured the first set, and, had she been healthy, would have probably defeated Stephens in a tough match.
In 12 previous meetings, Azarenka has defeated Williams just once. Williams has been extended to three sets in only two of her 11 wins.
The outcome of an unplayed match can't ever be speculated upon with 100 percent confidence, but when one player has dominated an opponent the way Williams has Azarenka, it is hard not to recognize that dynamic when considering her title run.
Aside from the tangible aspects the bracket did and didn't produce, the intangible takeaways for Azarenka are good and bad.
She won despite being poorly received by fans and the media. Most didn't take kindly to the "gamesmanship" Azarenka allegedly employed against Stephens in her semifinal match (ESPN).
After failing to capitalize on five match points, Azarenka took what may or may not have been a justified medical timeout.
Some speculate that she did this to throw Stephens off her rhythm, and if that was her intention, it worked. Azarenka finished off the 19-year-old promptly upon returning to the court.
The Belarusian has never been the easiest player to like. She's often over-emotional and surly, and then there's that god-awful shriek after nearly every shot.
Fans were not in her corner for this match, but she still persevered. She deserves credit for winning in what was a hostile environment. She also deserves the blame for making the environment less than friendly.
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