|ESPN.com: Bodo||[Print without images]|
Li hasn't lost a set in the tournament, while Azarenka has dropped just one. So what can Li do to turn around her losing streak against the Belarusian?The answer is simple: just what she's been doing for long periods in her six previous matches and what she did particularly well against Sharapova. That is, using her mobility and ultraclean, compact strokes to fire relatively flat lasers, keeping Azarenka off balance with excellent spot serving and -- last but most important -- avoiding any distraction or relaxation of her concentration. Azarenka knows that pressing Li and forcing her into errors is an excellent formula for getting her flustered. She also knows that Li's return isn't the outstanding feature of her game, so she'll undoubtedly try to damage Li's confidence in that shot. With the serve and her ground game, Azarenka will look to break down Li's forehand -- that shot probably will be the most significant one from either woman in this match. However, Azarenka is like Sharapova in that she is a hitter who can be goaded into overhitting, and she is also susceptible to what can only be called periodic funks. If Li is susceptible to a loss of focus, Azarenka is sometimes guilty of running off the rails and hitting wild shots. Both women are well-coached. Sam Sumyk has done a terrific job in smoothing out the game and temperament of reformed hothead Azarenka. But until late last year, Li was usually dissatisfied and underserved by her various coaches. That's different now, and it may be a major factor in the outcome. Rodriguez made his name as the career-long coach of Justine Henin, the retired Belgian star who overcame her diminutive size (5-foot-5) to win seven Grand Slam titles with a delightful, artistic game. In addition to his mastery of technique and the X's and O's, Rodriguez was a remarkably nurturing coach who knew how to make Henin feel good about herself. It's pretty obvious that Li hasn't always been positive about her game, and perhaps herself, so Rodriguez's talent in that area can't be ignored. He understands what it means to close the circle and will know just how to present that idea to his protégé.