One enters this match riding a wave of emotion and hope; the other is fiercely paddling and hoping that she can stay a stroke ahead of the looming pack.
For Sloane Stephens, everything from here on in is a bonus. After trumping a player she looked up to in Serena Williams on Wednesday, the American teenager has become the story of Australian Open 2013.
There’s one every year. In years gone by, that story has been Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati, Marcos Baghdatis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jelena Dokic.
Stephens has been that player who has captured the public’s attention and is fast becoming a crowd favourite – after all, anyone who can go blow for blow with arguably the best player of her generation has to be admired.
Just as Stephens has the crowd behind her, Azarenka must feel like she is being hunted. Not only is she the defending champion and desperate to go back to back, but the No.1 ranking – that she claimed in similar circumstances here last year – is also up for grabs.
And just to add a little more spice, Azarenka must win if she’s to remain No.1 next week. But not that this is of any concern to Azarenka.
“I think that's what you guys focus on more, to be honest,” she said to the gathered media with a smile.
“Everybody's talking about it. Everybody's writing the statistics, the headlines, whatever. For me it's important to just take it match by match. I'm here really to win the title. You know, the ranking comes with that.”
But to get a shot at the title, she first has to make it to the deciding match, and that means defeating Stephens, the 29th seed with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The early stages of this match will be interesting, as these two have never played before. Despite this, Azarenka has heard of the 19-year-old from Plantation, Florida.
“I think Sloane is a very, very talented girl. I think over the last couple years you see her development as a tennis player. Her game has come together. She's an all‑around player, very competitive.
“I think she has a good potential. It's just a matter of her, you know, getting all those details in place and really wanting to achieve great things.”
Some would argue that she already has – a win over Serena Williams in a Grand Slam quarterfinal is certainly better than good, but there’s still more to come, and now she has her sights set on Azarenka.
“I'm just going to go out and play my best, obviously,” Stephens said.
“Do what I do really well and just play my game. Just hopefully, you know, play well again.”