The Australian Open is giving us the perfect mix of old and new.
Over on the ladies' draw, we are down to two competitors: Li Na, who has one major title under her belt and will be appearing in her third Australian Open final, and Dominika Cibulkova, the diminutive 24-year-old who would be the "joint shortest grand slam singles winner in the Open Era," per CNN's Ravi Ubha.
But after destroying No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska to advance to her first ever Grand Slam final, Cibulkova had a message for her critics, courtesy of the Australian Open Twitter feed:
"It's not about how tall you are...you have to really want something & believe in it" @Cibulkova says good things come in small packages :)— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2014
On the men's draw, the remaining semifinal is nothing more than a renewal of one of the greatest tennis rivalries of all time: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who has been close to unbeatable since returning from a knee injury last February, against No. 6 Roger Federer, who has looked rejuvenated after a miserable finish to his 2013 season.
The two have met 34 times in their respective careers, including 10 Grand Slam battles and countless instant-classic matches. Despite the divergence of paths in the past year, both are once again playing at an extremely high level, making this one of the more compelling matchups in the legendary series.
Waiting for them in the final will be Stanislas Wawrinka, the other Swiss who has always had the physical traits but is now showing mental toughness in getting to his first Grand Slam final.
Here's a look at when and where to catch all the action, along with something to watch for in each of the scheduled matches.
|Round||Matchup||Date, Time (ET)||Date, Time (Local)||TV||Live Stream|
|Men's Semi||Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal||1/24, 3:30 a.m.||1/24, 7:30 p.m.||ESPN||ESPN3|
|Women's Final||Dominika Cibulkova vs. Li Na||1/25, 3 a.m.||1/25, 7 p.m.||ESPN||ESPN3|
|Men's Final||Stanislas Wawrinka vs. TBD||1/26, 3 a.m.||1/26, 7 p.m.||ESPN||ESPN3|
Dominika Cibulkova vs. Li Na: Cibulkova's Return Game
Ironically enough, for a player often criticized for her short stature, Cibulkova has been a giant-killer, taking out No. 3 Maria Sharapova, No. 11 Simona Halep and No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro, in addition to Radwanska.
A big reason for that has been her return game.
In her six matches so far in Melbourne, the Slovakian has won an astounding 56.1 percent of her return points. In every match but the first, she has won over half of the points in that category, completely eliminating her opponents' advantage on serve.
Cibulkova is able to get such impressive power on her shots. And lately, she has been absolutely dialed in with that power, hitting 38 winners in 30 games over her last two matches. With the way she's playing, if you fail to get her on the defensive with your serve and allow her to become the aggressor, it's over.
Which brings us to Li.
The French Open champion has won 61.7 percent of her service points so far in Australia, tallying a solid 18 aces. Her serve will have to be on if she wants to slow down the red-hot underdog.
Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal: Fed-Ex's Net Game
Gee, I wonder what Federer's new coach, former World No. 1 and arguably the greatest serve-and-volley player ever, Stefan Edberg, has been working on with his new student.
Who ya got?
In five matches so far in Melbourne, Fed-Ex has made a living moving forward, winning 135 of his 544 total points (24.8 percent) at the net. Moreover, he's been successful at a 75.8 percent clip, winning those 135 points on just 178 chances.
Federer has taken things to a new level against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray, arguably his most impressive wins in quite some time. He won 34 of 41 net points against the Frenchman, accounting for 34 percent of his total points, and he won 49-of-66 against Murray, good for 33.3 percent.
FedBerg lives on, but they will face their most difficult test against Nadal. This is going to be good.