Melbourne: Li Na became the first Chinese
player to reach a Grand Slam singles final, saving a match
point before beating top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 7-5,
6-3 Thursday in the Australian Open semifinals.
Wozniacki, playing at a major for the first time with the
No. 1 ranking, had match point at 5-4 and 40-30 in the second
set before Li rallied. An hour and six minutes later, she
served out on her first match point.
Li, who lost to Serena Williams in two tiebreak sets in
the semifinals here last year, will meet either Kim Clijsters
or No. 2 Vera Zvonareva in the final.
Li beat Clijsters in the final of the leadup event at
Sydney earlier this month, becoming the first Chinese woman to
win a WTA premier event. It was just another first for Li, who
was the first Chinese player to win a tour-level title and the
first to enter the top 10.
She is also the first player from Asia to reach a Grand
Slam singles final.
"I'm so happy I can be the first Chinese player to come
to a final. I always do the first one!," she said in a
lighthearted interview after the match in which she joked
about losing sleep on the eve of the match because her
coach-husband Shan Jiang was snoring.
Asked what motivated her comeback, she deadpanned: "Prize
Li looked down and out after the first set, when she made
17 unforced errors and struggled for consistency. She finished
with 51 unforced errors, but that was a reflection of her
pushing Wozniacki to the extremes.
Wozniacki could have ended the match in 1 hour, 29
minutes, but Li hit a forehand down the line, forcing an error
and saving match point. It sparked a revival. She broke in
that game to make it 5-5, held at love and then broke her
Danish rival's serve again -- after Wozniacki three times had
game points to force a tiebreaker --to make it level at one
They traded breaks twice in the third set before Li held
her nerve to finish it off when Wozniacki miscued a forehand.
First Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011, 13:18