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Can Li upset Serena?

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Who will win the WTA Championships final between Serena Williams and Li Na?

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Discuss (Total votes: 812)

SERENA WILLIAMS
LI NA

Serena will prove why she's the best

Wilansky By Matt Wilansky
ESPN.com
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Mr. Garber, I have to admit that at first I thought you had a hopeless assignment. How were you going to convince our legion of loyal readers that Li Na could somehow beat Serena Williams in the final of the WTA Championships?

But it turns out Williams found herself entangled in yet another drama-fraught match against Jelena Jankovic on Saturday. Williams, who said she "hit a wall," was moving sluggishly, but she eventually labored past Jankovic in three sets to reach the final.

It's only fitting the two players who went undefeated in the round-robin stage will play for the title in Istanbul. I'll give you this: Li has played inspired, consistent tennis this week, which is shocking unto itself, considering she has had an all-around erratic year. Li said before the onset of this tournament that she was pretty much ready for a long tennis timeout.

So kudos to her for her play this week. But now how about we let some sensibility do the talking, eh? Williams is 4-0 in Istanbul and is one match away from sweeping the year-enders for the second straight season. She's on a 14-match winning streak at these championships. Remember way back in 2002 when Williams completed the Serena Slam and we thought she couldn't play any better? Well, newsflash ... she has.

In 2013, Williams became the first player to earn more than $10 million in a single season; her total as it stands right now is $11,330,572. Did you know, Senor Garber, that only 24 players in the history of this game have ever earned that amount in their entire careers? I know prize money has ballooned in recent years, but still, that is an overwhelming testament to the season she has had.

We could go on and on lauding the leading lady on tour, but because space is limited, let's just sum up a few more things:

• Williams has 76 wins this season -- 20, yes, 20 more than the next best player on tour.

• She is 20-2 against top 10 players in 2013, her only two losses coming to Victoria Azarenka.

• Williams holds a 9-1 career record against Li with her only setback five years ago in Stuttgart.

I'll wrap this up by wishing you nothing but luck in your endeavor to explain how Li can pull off this upset, partner. Serena might be spent, but there are too many reasons she wont lose.

Final-Li, someone will upset Serena

Garber By Greg Garber
ESPN.com
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There's a lot to like about Li Na.

She's smart and funny and a breakthrough heroine in China. She's also a pretty decent tennis player. After a long campaign Li finds herself one of the last two players standing at the WTAs year-end championships -- opposite (gulp) Serena Williams. She's there because she smoked a terribly overmatched Petra Kvitova in Saturday's semifinals.

The win was Li's fourth in Istanbul (in four matches) and it vaulted her into a new place, past Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska into the No. 3 spot in the rankings. This is a first for the 31-year-old, but it won't be the last achievement this weekend for Li.

That is because, Mr. Wilansky, she's going to ruin your little scenario and run off with the title. I know, I know, the odds are seriously stacked against her -- but perhaps not as much as they were before after Williams' uninspired play in Saturday's semifinals. That's why it will be so much fun to see Li win.

I will acknowledge the elephant in the room: Serena has beaten Li in nine of their 10 meetings. No, it hasn't been pretty. Li won years ago when they played in Stuttgart, but it's been a rough ride. They've met three times in 2013 and Serena -- as dominant as weve ever seen her -- prevailed in straight sets every time, most recently in the semifinals at the US Open.

It's been a nice year for Li, who like Serena, has continued to play well past her 30th birthday. Her best showing came in the first Grand Slam, where she lost to Victoria Azarenka in the Melbourne final, even though she was a little scuffed up. Now, 10 months later (while Azarenka's season ended in grimaces and tears), she's poised to pull off her biggest win of the year.

Yes, it will take an extraordinary effort, even with Williams backing her way into the final. Li has played Serena reasonably close over the years; they've played seven tiebreakers in those 10 matches, and I'm feeling another one here in the opening set. Li is a momentum player and if she can win that first frame -- punch Serena in the nose, if you will -- she will ride that to a stunning victory.

You read it here first, Mr. Tennis Editor.

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