On Friday, the women's final will be decided. While the biggest names in the women's game like Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova aren't in the picture, a final between Li Na and Dominika Cibulkova is still plenty compelling.
Let's take a look at Friday's schedule and preview the women's final.
Where: Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|Saturday, January 25 at 3:30 a.m. ET||Women's Final||No. 4 Li Na vs. No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova|
Li will clearly be the favorite in this match. She's the No. 4 player in the world, she's 4-0 against Cibulkova—with her last victory being on a hard court in Toronto in 2013—and she likely won't have a more favorable matchup in a Grand Slam final for the rest of her career than this.
She'll be hungry. At 31 years of age, these opportunities won't be falling off of trees as her career progresses.
She's also experienced on this stage, having won the French Open three years ago and now playing in her third Australian Open final. And she's hot, having opened the season with 11 straight wins, having won the Shenzen Gemdale Kaisa Open in her Australian Open tuneup. Plus, she's lost just one set Down Under.
And as Melissa Isaacson of ESPNW notes, she'll likely have a pretty large rooting section:
There are favorites and there are favorites, and Li Na is both.
Everyone's bet to win her second Grand Slam title Saturday night at the Australian Open after two weeks of guts and excellence, everyone's choice to win after the same two weeks of fun and laughs.
She is the most famous tennis player in China, with 120 million people watching her win the French Open three years ago. She names her rackets (Li Na 1, Li Na 2, etc.) and worries about hurting any of their feelings, and lists not falling on her head as her top goal for Saturday's final.
While Cibulkova can't match the experience of Na—this is her first Grand Slam final—she's been excellent at the Australian Open, having dispatched of No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 11 Simona Halep and No. 3 Sharapova.
She's more than earned her place in this final, that's for sure.
One of the storylines of this match is Cibulkova's small frame—she stands just 5'3"—but she doesn't feel it will be a factor at all. Her comments, via Paul Newman of The Independent:
It’s not about how tall you are. Even if you are tall, it doesn’t mean that you are 100 per cent going to make it. It’s just you have to really want something and just believe in it. There is nothing more important than this.
Her height certainly hasn't held her back Down Under. But against Na, her inexperience might play a factor. Li won't be fazed at all by this stage, and adding a second Grand Slam title would put her in the same class as Sharapova and Azarenka in the second tier of women's contenders behind Williams.
Look for Li to ensure her legacy with a win.
Na wins, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4