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Page last updated at 06:49 GMT, Thursday, 27 January 2011

Australian Open: Li Na & Kim Clijsters win semi-finals

Australian Open, Melbourne
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 17-30 January
Coverage: Watch on BBC TV, Red Button, BBC Sport website (UK only) & Eurosport; listen on BBC 5 live sports extra and online; text commentary online; full details

Li Na

Li has Aussie Open crowd in stitches

Li Na became the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam singles final with a gutsy win over world number one Caroline Wozniacki in Melbourne.

The ninth seed survived match point in the second set before coming through a tense decider to win 3-6 7-5 6-3 and set up a final against Kim Clijsters.

US Open champion Clijsters repeated her New York win over Vera Zvonareva, this time easing to a 6-3 6-3 victory.

She will now overtake the Russian for the world number two ranking.

The second of the day's semi-finals was a one-sided affair, with Clijsters dominating Zvonareva just as she had done at Flushing Meadows in September.

After the pair swapped breaks of serve at the start of the match, Clijsters moved away with a break at 4-3 following a mishit smash from Zvonareva.

Kim Clijsters

Clijsters regrets head-shaving promise

The three-time US Open champion saw out the set comfortably and looked ready to take charge of the second before Zvonareva recovered from 15-40 in the opening game.

Clijsters swiftly made up for that by grabbing the break at the next opportunity, consolidating it with a love hold as Zvonareva failed to make any impact.

The Russian finally had a chance to get into the match with two break points at 4-3 down but two wayward backhands saw the opportunity slip away, and Clijsters went on to seal the win with another break after one hour and 13 minutes.

"It's nice to be in another Grand Slam final here," said the Belgian. "Obviously when you're close and having played a few semi-finals and one final, I think you kind of just tease with that feeling of maybe going the whole way.

"It's nice to be in the situation with the last two standing and trying to finish on top. You know, this is the last match. Just give everything that you have."

In the earlier semi-final, Wozniacki controlled the first set but was eventually ground down as her serve became increasingly shaky.

The 28-year-old Li, who defeated Clijsters at the Sydney International earlier this month after trailing 5-0 in the first set, is yet to be beaten this season and extended her winning run to 11 matches.

606: DEBATE

But Li will need plenty of time to recover from a two hour 35 minute contest that oscillated between the two players before finally ending with her third successive win over the world number one.

Li opened in aggressive style but Wozniacki's consistent percentage tennis gradually appeared to play on her nerves and the world number 11 handed her a 4-2 lead with a double fault in the sixth.

The ninth seed briefly threatened at 30-30 in the set's final game but could not overhaul Wozniacki's serve and miscued a second-serve return to surrender the opener with her 17th unforced error.

Li's serve was wrestled from her in dispiriting fashion in the third game of the second set as she salvaged three break points, the last with a delicate drop volley, but again conceded with a double fault.

Wozniacki seemed on the brink of victory but Li clawed back match point with a searing forehand before seizing a break point of her own to extend a see-sawing contest.

Right now I'm sitting here and I wish I would have won the match. It's quite difficult to get through this one

Caroline Wozniacki

It was Wozniacki who now felt the pressure of serving to restore parity and she conceded the second set with a double fault.

The pair traded breaks in the third and fourth games of the decider, and again in the sixth and seventh games, but it was Li who held her nerve as she stole Wozniacki's serve for a third successive, and decisive, time before serving out for the win.

Her compatriots Yan Zi and Zheng Jie have won two women's doubles Grand Slam titles in the past, but Li now has the opportunity to take one of the sport's great individual prizes.

"This is good for my tennis career, of course," said Li. "Good for me, good for my team, maybe good for China tennis - I'm not sure.

"But of course this is a good experience for my whole life, because many players, they play a long time, but they never come to the final of a Grand Slam."

Wozniacki said: "Sometimes in matches or in tennis it's one ball that can change everything. I didn't get my match point. From then on, well, she was just better at the most important points. She won the most important one, which was the last one.

"Of course right now I'm sitting here and I wish I would have won the match. It's quite difficult to get through this one. I just need to get back on the practice court and keep working hard. Hopefully I'll get many more chances in the future."



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see also
Rise of China tennis rebel Li Na
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Aussie Open quotes of the day
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Men's singles latest
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Women's singles latest
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Men's singles draw
26 Aug 11 |  Tennis
Women's singles draw
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