Serena Williams will be seeking her second singles title of the season and 59th overall on Saturday when she takes on Li Na in the Sony Open final. Based on her track record against the two-time major champion, it's hard not to like Williams' chances.
The two have played 11 previous times and the American holds a 10-1 edge, including nine straight triumphs dating back to 2009. The only victory by Li came six years ago in Stuttgart when she stormed back to win after Williams won the first set 6-0.
Li has only pushed two of the last nine meetings to a third set. The combined scores of those deciding sets when it did go the distance is 12-2 in favor of Williams. So there isn't a lot of stats that bode well for the Chinese star.
The silver lining for Li is that she's been playing well as of late. Good enough, in fact, that she's now reached a career-high ranking of No. 2. As Christopher Clarey of The New York Times points out, it sets up a battle between the top two players for the Miami title:
Although Li is playing some very good tennis right now, there's a reason the head-to-head numbers are so lopsided. Quite simply, it all comes down to the fact Williams is a bad matchup for her based on their playing styles.
Li had 44 aces and 93 double faults in 19 matches heading into the Sony Open. Williams had 98 aces and 33 doubles faults in just 11 matches.
The Chinese veteran can beat a lot of players on tour with an average performance on serve and then capitalizing by converting a lot of break points. That approach doesn't work against the No. 1 player in the world because she's so dominant on serve.
Since Williams can breeze through service games without much resistance on so many occasions, it puts far more pressure on Li to hold her own serve. And even though some of those previous encounters have been competitive, the edge clearly falls to Williams.
Making matters worse for Li, Williams talked about surprising herself with how well she served in her semifinal triumph over Maria Sharapova. The Associated Press (via ESPN) passed along her remarks about doing some double takes at the speed:
I hadn't been serving great too much this tournament, and then I started serving a lot better today. I was hitting 120. I was like, 'Whoa. Is that me?'
The situation isn't just limited to Li, of course. When Williams is playing her best tennis there isn't a player currently on tour capable of playing at a higher level. It just so happens Li's style makes it a particularly bad matchup despite her success against other opponents.
And Williams has enjoyed a successful run through the Miami field. After some early issues following an extended layoff, she's been dominant over the past three rounds in victories over Coco Vandeweghe, Angelique Kerber and Sharapova.
Even if Li is able to take one set from Williams in the final, it's hard to imagine her winning a second to capture the title with the American performing so well.
Look for Williams to raise the 2014 Sony Open trophy.
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