Sharapova and Azarenka meet in the women's singles title match Saturday. It will be Sharapova's third trip to the finals of the event -- she won in 2008 after losing to Serena Williams in 2007 -- but Azarenka's first major tournament final.
Overall, Sharapova is 3-2 in Grand Slam finals. She won Wimbledon in 2004 and the U.S. Open in 2006 in addition to the Australian Open title. She lost in the finals at Wimbledon last year.
The winner will collect a major tournament title and about $2.4 million but she will also become the new No. 1 ranked women's player in the world. A quarterfinal loss by Caroline Wozniacki assured a change at the top. Wozniacki has been the top-ranked player for the last 49 weeks.
Azarenka, No. 3 in the world at 22 years of age, would be the first player to be ranked No. 1 without having been second on the list (not counting Chris Evert, who was No. 1 when the rankings started in November 1975).
A win would mark the fifth time Sharapova, 24, earned the No. 1 ranking. The first was a one-week stint in August 2005. She was also on top for six weeks later that year, seven weeks early in 2007 and a three more weeks that spring.
"Having been in that position before, it doesn't really add anything for me," Sharapova said on the WTA Web site. "It's more about the Grand Slam win that the ranking."
Azarenka and Sharapova have split their six previous meetings.
Ray Liotta sues skin care company over use of likeness
Boston schools pull out free condoms over wrapping complaints