There's only one more singles match to go in Melbourne before we have our 2014 Australian Open men's and women's finalists.
While No. 4 Li Na and No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova have advanced to Saturday's final (3 a.m. ET, Jan. 25, ESPN) on the women's side, No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka is awaiting the winner of Friday's No. 1 Rafael Nadal versus No. 6 Roger Federer matchup in the other men's semifinal. Sunday's men's final can be seen live at 3 a.m. ET on ESPN and again at 9 a.m.
For a complete look at the Australian Open singles draws, visit ausopen.com (women's/men's). Now that there are only five players left, let's take a look at how they reached the end of the first major of the year.
Men's: No. 1 Rafael Nadal/No. 6 Roger Federer
These two will meet for the 33rd time head-to-head, with Nadal holding a commanding 22-10 lead, including a 4-0 mark in 2013. Given Federer's age of 32 and his recent decline, this might be the last time we see these two players face off with the stakes so high.
Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated broke down the dynamics of the epic Federer-Nadal rivalry. Sure, there are striking differences in the two players' games that always make this matchup intriguing, but Wertheim offered that this one means more:
Apart from the stylistic differences, Federer-Nadal now also mesmerizes us because history and legacy are at stake. Federer and Nadal are competing for more than superiority in the present. They are competing for superiority in the future. That mystical distinction of the most accomplished player of all time -- the tennis crowd has abbreviated it to the GOAT (greatest of all time). Nadal stands in Federer's way. Federer stands in Nadal's way.
While Nadal breezed with straight-set victories to start the tournament, he needed four sets to claim a 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 win over underdog No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals. Federer, meanwhile, outlasted No. 4 Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 to advance to his 11th consecutive Australian Open final.
Men's: No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka
After upsetting Novak Djokovic in the quarters and Tomas Berdych in the semifinals, the 28-year-old Wawrinka is hoping for an all-Swiss Australian Open final, according to BBC Sport:
Wawrinka is in uncharted water, as this marks the first Grand Slam final of his career. Aside from the national pride for Switzerland, Wawrinka also might prefer Federer to Nadal, who has beaten him 12 times in straight sets throughout their careers.
Piers Newbery of BBC Sport passed along Wawrinka's comments on the possibility of playing his fellow countryman:
It would be amazing. Roger is the best player ever. He texted me last night. He is happy it is the first time two Swiss guys are in the semi-finals. I told him for you it's normal, for me it's not normal. I have two days to enjoy this win and then get ready for my first final.
It appears that Wawrinka's coach Magnus Norman has worked wonders with him since taking over last year, as Wawrinka is arguably playing the best tennis of his career.
Women's: No. 4 Li Na
Li enters Saturday's match as the favorite, marking her third final appearance in four years at the Australian Open. Li has survived a wild tournament that has been filled with upsets all over the bracket, defeating Canadian youngster Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-4 to reach the final.
Here's how the final point played out at Melbourne Park:
Following the Li/Bouchard match, Wertheim shared some perspective on what it meant for women's tennis:
Now that the titans of women's tennis like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are out of the picture, this title is Li's to win. In order to do that, she'll have to get a monkey off her back after losing to Kim Clijsters (2011) and Azarenka (2013) on the same stage.
Women's: No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova
Cibulkova used her aggressive style and heavy ball to dethrone Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska to reach this point of the tournament. Now she enters Sunday's final with nothing to lose after a career-best run in a Grand Slam.
Although unexpected, it would be fitting to see Cibulkova trump Li in one final upset for a women's tournament that has been rife with unforeseen victories. Cibulkova has become something of a media darling during her push to the finals, as she stands at only 5'3", much shorter than most of her competition.
But that hasn't stopped the 24-year-old from being physical and shouldering her way to the first Grand Slam final of her career.
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