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Good as Li is, with power off both wings and superb court coverage that helped her reach two Australian Open finals, she simply couldn’t stay with Williams. After Li went up 40-love to get within one point of a 3-1 advantage in the second set, she ceded six points with missed backhands to let Williams break right back. And Williams broke again to go up 4-2.
Li entered the day with a tournament-best 29 aces, but Williams did not allow one serve to get past her. Williams also tracked down ball after ball, using the nimble footwork that coach Patrick Mouratoglou says was the first thing he wanted to improve when they began working together 15 months ago.
U.S. Open highlights
O Aside from needing seven points to close out the match, Serena Williams dominates Li Na 6-0, 6-3.
» No. 2 Victoria Azarenka gets by Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-2, setting up a championship rematch against Williams.
O Saturday, 10 a.m.
TV » Ch. 2
Repeatedly, Li would appear to hit a point-ending shot. And repeatedly, Williams would somehow get it back over the net. That’s why Li finished with a paltry eight winners, 11 fewer than Williams.
"I need more practice," Li said.
Williams leaves plenty of opponents feeling that way.
Still, there was the matter of winning Friday’s last point, and that took a while. With Li serving while down 5-2, they played an epic, 22-point game. Li erased match point No. 1 with a 101 mph service winner. On No. 2, Williams pushed a backhand wide. On No. 3, Li’s backhand down the line drew a forehand into the net. On No. 4, a 103 mph serve produced a netted forehand return. On No. 5, Williams ended a 10-stroke exchange by sailing a swinging forehand volley wide, then dropped to her knees. No. 6 ended with Li’s overhead winner.
When Williams sent a backhand long to lose the game after the nearly 1½-hour match’s most compelling 13 minutes, 49 seconds, some spectators responded with a standing ovation. If they were figuring there might only be one more game, they were right.
Serving at 5-3, 30-all, Williams watched Li’s backhand drop long, then bent forward and screamed, pumping her left fist. Once again, she was a point from the final, and this time she was able to seal the deal, thanks to a strong serve that Li could only put in the net.
Because of the way it finished, the match felt much closer than it ever really was.
During an on-court interview, Williams was asked about taking on Azarenka again.
"Well, we always have really good matches. I look forward to it," Williams told the crowd. "It’s great to get to another final. She’s a great player and she lifts her game when it really counts."
Sounds like a good description of Williams.
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