Friday, January 28, 2011

AUS OPEN 2011: Women's Final Preview

Here are my predictions for the 2011 Australian Open women's final. I previously made predictions for the women's semifinals (2 of 2) and women's quarterfinals (3 of 4).

Li Na CHN (9) vs. Kim Clijsters BEL (3). This is a historic match: the first time a player from Asia has competed for a major title. There are potentially 1.3 billion people in China who will be personally invested in the result of this match and learn the name of their compatriot: Li Na. In some sense this can be considered performance pressure that no other player has ever experienced. However, Li is used to being a trailblazer so perhaps she will not be overly affected. Clijsters is in her 8th career major final (losing the first four and winning the last three!) and her second consecutive major final following her 2010 US Open title. The two have played 6 times, with Clijsters winning 4 times, including twice in grand slams. However, Li Na won the last match they played, the final of the Sydney International, exactly two weeks to the day the 2011 Australian Open women's final will be completed. Li Na made history there by becoming the first Chinese player to win a top Tier title on the women's tour; she beat Clijsters 7-6(3) 6-3 despite the fact that the Belgian was up 5-0 in the first set.

I find it hard to believe that Clijsters will blow a lead of 5-0 in the final (and hard to believe that Li Na will give up such a huge lead also). The two play similar styles but the 3-time US Champion does everything better than the 1st-time finalist. They both have huge forehands, dangerous backhands and are excellent movers. Additionally, Clijsters is quite good at the net (although Li is not afraid of approaching the net she is not as effective when she gets there) and has a serve that should win her some free points. 

The only hope for Li is if Clijsters goes through one of her patches of bad play, or for some reason gets nervous as she nears winning her first major title outside of New York.

PREDICTION: Clijsters.

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