With upsets headlining the women's singles draw at the 2014 Australian Open, a pair of fresh faces will battle for the women's championship at Melbourne Park on Saturday, Jan. 25.
Fourth-seeded Li Na earned her third career Aussie Open final berth on Day 11, knocking off Canadian upstart Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets. She'll face off against 20th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, who has upended two top-five players en route to her first-ever Grand Slam final.
While Li takes aim at a second career major title, the surprising Slovak will look to make it three top-five victims on Day 13.
Below we'll get you set with everything you need to know for this weekend's 2014 Australian Open women's final.
Date: Saturday, January 25, 2014
Start Time: 7:30 p.m. (local time), 3:30 a.m. ET
Where: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|Sat, Jan. 25||Pre-Final Entertainment||7 p.m. local time, 3 a.m. ET||ESPN|
|Sat, Jan. 25||Women's Singles Final||7:30 p.m. local time, 3:30 a.m. ET||ESPN|
How They Got Here
For the countless tennis fans who were anticipating a championship showdown between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, Day 13's women's final is a surprising one pitting two overlooked but deserving competitors up against one another.
Li has now reached the Australian Open final three times in the past four years. However, the 31-year-old is still looking to get her hands on the trophy for the first time.
While Li's run has been impressive (eight consecutive sets won since Round 3), it's not nearly as shocking as Cibulkova's. The 24-year-old had never been past the Round of 16 Down Under prior to 2014 but now finds herself playing for a major title for the first time.
Here's a look at each player's path to the final:
|Li Na (4)||Dominika Cibulkova (20)|
|1st Round||Def. A. Konjuh; 6-2, 6-0||Def. F. Schiavone; 6-3, 6-4|
|2nd Round||Def. B. Bencic; 6-0, 7-6 (5)||Def. S. Voegele; 6-0, 6-1|
|3rd Round||Def. L. Safarova (26); 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3||Def. C. Suarez Navarro (16); 6-1, 6-0|
|Round of 16||Def. E. Makarova (22); 6-2, 6-0||Def. M. Sharapova (3); 3-6, 6-4, 6-1|
|Quarterfinal||Def. F. Pennetta (28); 6-2, 6-2||Def. S. Halep (11); 6-3, 6-0|
|Semifinal||Def. E. Bouchard (30); 6-2, 6-4||Def. A. Radwanska (5); 6-1, 6-2|
Li and Cibulkova have combined to lose just two sets total en route to the final and have clearly been the two most consistent players in the women's draw.
Li is no stranger to this stage and has fared well on it in the past, taking the first set off of Kim Clijsters in the 2011 Australian Open final and winning the opening set against Azarenka in last year's final. It's a matter of finishing the job this time around, and based on Li's current level of focus and form, you have to like her chances.
Cibulkova isn't an easy opponent by any means, but her inexperience at this stage of a Grand Slam makes her a favorable matchup for a past Slam champion in Li.
"First time I came to the final I was so inexperienced...right now a final is special" Li Na #ausopen— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2014
As far as the physical matchup is concerned, Li showed in her semifinal win over Bouchard that her game is firing on all cylinders. Although she'll have to be more consistent on serve against Cibulkova, her ability to maximize on break-point chances, finish points at the net and hit consistent winners makes her a threat to beat anyone on Rod Laver Arena.
Li Na's weight of shot and power from the backhand doing a ton of damage today. Her forehand not being tested. Experience showing through.— Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) January 23, 2014
Cibulkova was sensational in her semifinal rout as well but was up against a burned out and flat opponent in Agnieszka Radwanska, who had just upset two-time defending tournament champion Victoria Azarenka 24 hours earlier.
With two full days to rest up for Day 13's women's final, the battle-tested Li is sure to cap off her remarkable run with a well-deserved title this weekend.
Prediction: Li Na def. Dominika Cibulkova; 7-5, 6-4
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