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3 Major Champions and a 19 year-old: Previewing the Women's Semifinals | January | 2013 Articles

3 Major Champions and a 19 year-old: Previewing the Women's Semifinals

Written by Andrew Moffa on .

While some people are still trying to comprehend the fact thst 19 year-old Sloane Stephens of Plantation, Florida upset the seemingly invincible Serena Williams in three sets to advance to her first ever Grand Slam semifinal, it is time to look forward to the two semifinal matches, which take place several hours from now. Of the four semifinalists, three of them, Maria Sharapova, Na Li, and Victoria Azarenka, have Major Championships. The other semifinalist, the aforementioned Stephens, is playing in only her seventh Major. Do not think that this will serve as a point of intimidation for the American. She is not one to back down to a challenge. Let's take a quick look at the two Women's Semifinals of the 2013 Australian Open.

Women's Semifinals:

Na Li [6] vs. Maria Sharapova [2]

Maria Sharapova is into yet another Major Semifinal playing arguably the best tennis of her life. She has just dismantled opponent after opponent in this tournament, seemingly recording a 6-0 set in every match she has played. Now that it is the Semifinals, she figures to face more of a challenge from Chinese veteran Na Li, who is coming off of a very impressive upset of No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska. Since Na dropped her husband as her coach and started working with Carlos Rodriguez, she has been awfully hard to beat. She is playing like she did a couple of years ago when she followed up a second-place finish in the Australian Open by winning the French Open, which is still her only Major Championship. While it is obvious that she faces a very tough challenge in Maria Sharapova, expect her to be aggressive and try to play this match on the offensive. Sharapova has been dominant in virtually every aspect of her game so far in Melbourne. She has been blowing opponents off the court from the baseline and continues to keep her opponents off balance with her serve and return. Her serve, which is very often a strength of Sharapova, has also been a weakness in spots. Expect Na Li to really go after the return. However, Na will have to play smart if she is going to advance to her second Australian Open Final. This match should be a great one to watch, and I am looking for Sharapova to advance in two air-tight sets.

Victoria Azarenka [1] vs. Sloane Stephens [29]

Victoria Azarenka is supposed to be in the Semifinals of a Major. Sloane Stephens is not. However, do not expect this small fact to faze the young American, who will be walking onto Rod Laver Arena expecting to win and book her spot in what she hopes to be the first of many Grand Slam Finals. Stephens, who is coming off an emotional roller-coaster of a match against Serena Williams, has all of the tools necessary to beat a player like Azarenka. She has tremendous power off both wings and can win some free points with her serve. Azarenka, who has looked very impressive throughout this tournament for the most part, must like her chances against the 19 year-old American but still needs to be on the top of her game. She will need to serve well and push Stephens from side to side from the baseline. If she lets Sloane gain the offensive in long groundstroke rallies, another upset could be in the making. It will also be interesting to see the reaction of the Australian crowd during this match. They have come to adore Stephens, and this could really help the Florida native, especially if she seems a bit fatigued in the beginning of the match. Playing back-to-back days is never easy, especially after such an emotional match like the one she played yesterday. She cannot afford to start slowly, as Vika will sense weakness and run away with the match. In what I think will be the more entertaining of the two Finals, Azarenka will advance in three dramatic sets.

Enjoy the tennis, which begins at 9:30 PM ET on ESPN2 with Na Li vs. Maria Sharapova. Stephens vs. Azarenka will follow.

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