Tennis: Li Na beats Bouchard, reaches Australian Open final
Tennis • Chinese star looking to make up for last year’s title loss.
Published: January 22, 2014 11:47AM
Updated: January 23, 2014 08:37AM
image
Roger Federer of Switzerland leaps for a shot to Andy Murray of Britain during their quarterfinal at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Melbourne, Australia • Li Na has her third and probably best chance to win the Australian Open final after advancing with a 6-2, 6-4 win over 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.

No. 4-seeded Li, the 2011 French Open champion, is the only major winner and the highest-ranked player still in contention after the fourth-round upsets of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and defending champion Victoria Azarenka’s quarterfinal loss to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.

No. 20-seeded Dominika Cibulkova trounced Radwanska — the 2012 Wimbledon finalist 6-1, 6-2 — in the other semifinal Thursday.

Li lost last year’s Australian Open final to Azarenka, after falling over and hitting her head twice on the court. She lost the 2011 decider to Kim Clijsters, her first appearance in a Grand Slam final, and recovered from that loss to win her one and only major at Roland Garros.

“Last time was a little bit tough. I will try this time to make one more step,” Li said. “Tough match of course in the final. I think for sure both will try fight on the court because it’s one more step to take the trophy.”

Li considered quitting the tour after the French Open last year, when she was beaten in the second round and was struggling with the off-court pressure.

After reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, the Chinese star opted against retiring and then reached the U.S. Open semifinals. Li, who turns 32 next month, has gone another step further in Australia.

After saving a match point in the third round against Lucie Safarova, she has started all her matches aggressively. It worked against Bouchard, who didn’t win a point in her first three service games in a nervous start. In the second set, the pair exchanged four service breaks in the first six games before Li finally took charge.

Fittingly, Li finished off the match with a backhand crosscourt, one of 16 backhand winners in the match and her biggest weapon against Bouchard.

The Canadian teenager was playing only her fourth Grand Slam tournament, and became just the second player from her country to reach a major semifinal.

“I think maybe she will be best player in the world. But today [I’m] so lucky,” Li said.

On TV

O Men’s semifinals

Thursday, noon

TV • ESPN2