Serena Williams remains the dominant force in women’s tennis at present but the world No.1 may not have it all her own way in Melbourne with Victoria Azarenka out to defend her Australian Open crowd and make history in the process.
The Belarusian is 4/1 with Ladbrokes to win the competition having claimed victory in the opening major of the season in the previous two years.
Last season’s win over Li Na in the Australian Open final put her on course for an excellent year that included a US Open runner-up finish and a semi-final appearance at Roland Garros.
It would have been even better for the 24-year-old were it not for the presence of Williams, who maintained her vice-like grip on the professional game, beating Azarenka in the final at Flushing Meadows and claiming victory at the French Open.
This form has seen the American priced as the firm favourite to win the Australian Open at evens, with the Michigan-born star aiming to stretch her record haul of titles in Melbourne to six.
However, with the last of these titles coming back in 2010, Azarenka will fancy her chances of equalling the record for the most consecutive titles, which stands at three and is currently held by five former greats of the female game, including Martina Hingis and Steffi Graf.
But in order to do so she will most likely have to overcome the American, having previously avoided her en route to those victories in 2012 and earlier this year.
Williams certainly has the advantage in the head-to-head standings with 14 wins to the Belarusian’s paltry three, but the gap between the players has lessened in recent encounters with two wins each in their last four meetings, while only one of these encounters has ended in a straight sets victory.
Time may ultimately be catching up on the 32-year-old all-time great and with Azarenka eight years her junior, any failure to meet the younger player in the final could signal the beginnings of a power shift in the women’s game.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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