Victoria Azarenka vs. Li Na: What Chinese Star Must Do to Defeat Defending Champ

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24:  Na Li of China plays a forehand in her Semifinal match against Maria Sharapova of Russia during day eleven of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Few players at the Australian Open have been more impressive throughout the tournament as Li Na, but defeating Victoria Azarenka will not be easy.

The Chinese star has won all six of her matches in straight sets to reach her first Grand Slam final since 2011. In fact, Li did not even reach a quarterfinal in any of the four major tournaments last season.

However, she is showing that she is once again one of the best in the world. By following these keys, she has the ability to defeat the No. 1 seed in the Australian Open finals. 


Keep Sets Short

Li has been in great shape throughout her career, but she is now 30 years old. It will be tough for her to stay around with younger opponents for a long match.

This has not been an issue so far in Melbourne due to the fact that she has not gone to a third set. However, Azarenka will not go down that easily.

It will be important for Li to be very aggressive to keep rallies shorter. Even if she loses some points early on, it will be worth it in the long run as she is able to compete in the third set.

Her sets have been running relatively long, but she needs to keep all of them under an hour in her next match. 


Get First Serves In Play

Although Li is not someone that will rack up aces in a tough match, she is still usually very efficient with her serve. 

This needs to continue, as Azarenka is very good at returning serves that do not have much on it.

Throughout the tournament, Li has been impressive with her accuracy by getting a high percentage of her serves in play, but that needs to continue. She still could cut down on her 16 double faults. 

Against Maria Sharapova in the semifinals, Li only double faulted once to go with only 18 unforced errors. In order to beat Azarenka, she needs to keep her mistakes low and take care of things that she can control. One of those things is keeping her first serve in play.


Beat Opponent's Second Serve

Azarenka is one of the best servers in the world, but there is a huge drop-off on her second serve.

In the semifinals against Sloane Stephens, the Belarusian won 64 percent of his first serves. However, that dropped down to 37 percent on her second serve. 

Meanwhile, Li only allowed Sharapova to win six of her 24 points on her second serve, good for only a 25 percent success rate.

This is Li's strength against Azarenka's weakness, and it will be a huge part of the Australian Open finals. When the top player misses on her first serve, Li needs to gear up and work to get break points.