The reigning champion, Kim Clijsters, continued her reign in Week 2 of the Australian Open, as she shut down the No. 1-ranked player in the world, Caroline Wozniacki, in straight sets. The No. 11 seed will be looking to continue her shot at winning the title yet again, but this time she will have to go through No. 3, Victoria Azarenka.
Azarenka came into this tournament winning her previous showing at the Apia International in Sydney, going through top-ranked players Marion Bartoli, Agnzieszka Radwanska and Li Na. She has been looking solid thus far this tournament, facing her first difficult challenge in Radwanska in the previous round.
Clijsters will be a tough matchup, and should still be the favorite despite the ranking differential.
She has been taken to three sets twice thus far, but those were defeats of Wozniacki and Na. She also defeated Daniela Hantuchova in the third round, which was just another road block in what has been a tough road to this semifinal match.
The head-to-head matchup has Clijsters sitting at a 4-2 advantage, but the last time these two met was in Miami, where Azarenka won in a major upset in that tournament's quarterfinal match.
It will remain to be seen how this matchup will pan out in tonight's semifinal match, but let's take a look at what will be going on tonight.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 25th at 9:30 PM EST
Where: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park
Watch: ESPN 2/ ESPN3.com
What's at Stake?
Whoever wins this match advances to the Australian Open finals and will get a shot at either Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova.
If Clijsters is to make the final, she will be in position to have a chance to repeat as champion down under. If she is able to capture the title, she would be winning her fifth career slam title as well as her second at the Aussie Open.
It would only be the third time she has ever made this tournament's final, with 2004 being the only other season. She has failed to make it past the semifinals here four times, so her advancement is no guarantee.
For Azarenka, this tournament will give her another chance to claim her first career slam title after she failed to make it to the finals at Wimbledon last season.
She has been consistently one of the better women on the tour, but this is the farthest she has ever made it in this tournament.
Last year, she lost in the fourth round here. She had only made one other semifinal in her career, which she lost at last year's Wimbledon.
It will be interesting to see if Kvitova gets through to the final, as these two were pitted against each other in that semifinal match last year.
Most importantly, if Azarenka is able to win the whole thing, she will be able to capture the No. 1 ranking in the world.
Keys for a Clijsters Win
For the reigning champion to continue her dominance, she is going to need to control the game.
If she lets Azarenka play offense, then this match takes a turn for the worst. Clijsters needs to take control from the very beginning, breaking Azarenka as early as possible.
Both players have recently been taken to three sets, so it is important to win the first. Both have shown the ability to stay resilient throughout the match, so it is a must to make an impact first.
Clijsters has the experience here, and that will give her an advantage.
Her ground strokes have been looking solid, and her serve and return game have as well. If she can keep things going as she has all tournament, it will be hard for her to drop this match.
Keys for a Azarenka Win
This one won't be easy for the No. 3 player in the world.
She is taking on one of the best tennis players of the last decade, and she is going to need to stay mentally strong to come through in this one.
If she gets an upper hand at any point in the match, she cannot let her nerves kick in and possibly avoid the ability to move on to the finals.
She has been playing good tennis all tournament long, and this is her opportunity to make it to her first slam final.
With the thought of a possible title and the No. 1 ranking at stake, this match cannot overwhelm her.
Keeping her nerves in check will be the most important thing for her to do to win.
Clijsters has just been too strong, and she has already taken down some of the toughest competition in this tournament.
This one won't be easy for either, but experience will trump all, as Clijsters will take this match in three sets.
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