Australian Open 2013 Issue 12: Federer vs. Murray semifinal preview
January 24, 2013 · Print This Article
by: Tom Cochrane
World number one Victoria Azarenka and sixth seed Li Na will contest the women’s singles final on Saturday night after both players recorded straight sets semi-final victories on Day 11.
Day 11 Recap
One of China’s biggest sporting names, Li Na was first in action on Day 11, faced with the almighty task of taking down the red-hot Maria Sharapova, who had been in ruthless touch at Melbourne Park this year. Unfortunately for the second seeded Sharapova, she peaked too early and was far from her best against the 2011 Australian Open finalist.
A break to Li Na in the opening game set the tone for the one-sided match, with the sixth seed in blistering touch off the forehand wing, normally her weaker side, and also serving and moving well. Sharapova, by contrast, was sluggish, committing 6 double faults and 32 unforced errors for the match. 6-2 6-2 was the final score line, and even that clear margin of victory flattered the Russian.
Having gone down to Kim Clijsters in the 2011 final at Melbourne Park, Li Na gets another shot at claiming the Australian Open crown against top seed Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian looked in ominous touch in the first set, dominating young American Sloane Stephens to take the opener 6-1. Stephens initially seemed overawed by the occasion of her first major semi-final, but started to find her rhythm in the second set, and a slight ankle injury to Azarenka gave the American some hope.
Despite the ankle problem, Azarenka looked the better player in the second set and when she served for the match at 5-3 it looked all over. But Stephens showcased her fighting qualities, saving 5 match points to earn the break back. Whispers went around Rod Laver Arena that Azarenka might be choking, and it seemed the top seed did have some breathing problems in the brutal heat, going off-court for 10 minutes as part of an injury time-out.
Whether it was a legitimate health concern or simply some gamesmanship on the part of the defending champion remains to be determined, but there’s no doubt the move proved effective, with Azarenka breaking Stephens in the very next game to seal a 6-1 6-4 victory.
Top seed Novak Djokovic is the first man through to Sunday’s men’s final after the three-time champion annihilated David Ferrer. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the gallant Ferrer, who always gives his all on court, but the cold hard reality is that the fourth seed was simply no match against a player who was firing on all cylinders.
Blasting 30 winners against just 16 unforced errors, Djokovic wrapped up a comprehensive 6-2 6-2 6-1 win in just under 90 minutes, meaning that the top seed should be in perfect shape for Sunday’s final, where he seeks to become the first man to win three successive Australian Open championships.
Match of the Day – Day 12
Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray
The blockbuster semi-final that tournament organisers, fans, and most likely Murray and Federer themselves were hoping for has finally become a reality. It’s fair to say that this is the biggest match of the tournament so far and one that is desperately hard to pick.
Murray leads Federer 10-9 in career meetings, with the Scot having always troubled the Swiss master. But Federer has always had the edge over Murray at Grand Slam level, claiming all three of their major clashes (each of which was a Grand Slam final). Murray finally got the dreaded Grand Slam monkey off his back last year, as he outlasted Djokovic to win the US Open final, and the super-fit and younger Murray might prove to have the superior endurance should the match go the distance.
Although Murray has a wealth of experience, there is no more experienced player in the men’s game at present than the legendary Federer, and I expect the second seed to raise his level after squeezing past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with a patchy performance in the quarter-finals. Coach Ivan Lendl has most definitely improved Murray’s mental toughness and his overall attitude on-court and, most importantly, as a major champion Murray now believes he belongs in the winners’ club when it comes to the Grand Slams. To my mind, this is a toss of the coin but I will back Murray to come out on top in a thriller. Murray in 5.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.