The first singles match of the day is going to see the world’s number two, Maria Sharapova, trying to assert her dominance over the Chinese number one, Li Na, in what should be a really cracking contest.

Match: Maria Sharapova vs Li Na

Maria Sharapova

Source: Christian Mesiano @ Flickr

Selection: Maria Sharapova (-5 games)

Best Odds: 1.91 @ Pinnacle

From the H2H point of view, the Russian certainly deserves to be the favourite in this clash, as she won eight of the twelve previous meetings between the two. To make things even better, she won every single battle against Li Na in 2012, so she will be looking to confirm that dominance today.

And, if her recent performances are anything to go by, a pretty straightforward win is on the cards for her. With Serena Williams out of the draw now, she is the main favourite for the Australian Open title and a very solid win today would really set her up for the final match, which is going to take place on Saturday. Confidence is often the most important thing for her, so it is clear that Li Na will be trying to start strongly and hopefully upset Sharapova’s rhythm as early as possible.

Unfortunately for her, she does not really have any weapons with which she could trouble Sharapova’s A-game, so playing her solid game and getting under the Russian’s skin is just about the only thing that she will be able to do today. From time to time, Sharapova can get pretty frustrated and lose her temper, but I don’t believe that she is going to let the pressure get to her today, so I am going to back her winning in a fairly straightforward manner. The handicap line might look a bit steep, but Sharapova has lost just nine games so far and seems to be in the best possible form here, so I would say that she should be able to cover it.