In life, when opportunity knocks you have to be ready to answer. Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka both enter the 2012 Australian Open Women’s Singles Final with an opportunity to claim the world #1 ranking. We will see who answers the call. Maria Sharapova seized the moment in her semifinal with 2011 WTA Player of the Year Petra Kvitova by maximizing her chances. While Masha was 5 for 5 on her break point opportunities, Petra Kvitova was 4 for 13. Kvitova had Sharapova in trouble on serve many times, but the 2008 Australian Open winner Masha escaped often enough to post a 6-2 3-6 6-4 victory.
Like Petra Kvitova, Kim Clijsters did not capitalize on break chances, four in one game she squandered early in the match. But let me give all credit to Victoria Azarenka. She was clearly the better, sharper player on this day. Yes, Kimmie made a comeback in the second set, but she was aided by 16 unforced errors by Vika. When Vika cleaned up her errors, she was outplaying Kim. As a Kimmie fan, it was difficult to watch her last Australian Open end before the final but on this day Vika deserved the win.
The head-to-head between Vika and Masha is a bit misleading at 3-3. The 2011 Rome win for Sharapova was due to Vika retiring. Vika won the first set. Some of the older matches are a bit sketchy too, as Azarenka wasn’t what she is now. Still, It seems even when Masha won, she was stretched by Vika. Sharapova will have to serve well. If she gives away points on double faults or has to rely on second serves, she won’t win. On the other hand, Vika needs to avoid letting Masha into the match at all. For all of her great play in the semifinals, Clijsters had a chance to escape. If Vika allows Masha to gain confidence and get on a roll, the pressure of a final might get to Azarenka.