French Open - Li beats Sharapova to make history
Thu, 02 Jun 15:05:00 2011
Li, who also reached the final at the Australian Open earlier this year, was the more solid of two as they struggled with gusty conditions, recording victory in one hour and 48 minutes when Sharapova slapped down her 10th double fault of the day.
"She had a huge big serve so I thought please double fault so I can win the match!" Li joked in her courtside interview.
"I never believed myself that I could be in the French Open final, I wish I can do even better in Saturday's final. It was a tough match."
Li had won her last two matches against Sharapova and made a fast start when she broke in just the second game, the seventh seed slapping a forehand wide.
Sharapova failed to take advantage of immediate break back points but did manage to get things back on level terms in the eighth game as the match finally threatened to heat up.
The Russian unleashed a series of huge cross court backhands that eventually forced Li into the error as she desperately tried to break Sharapova's rhythm.
But just as things looked set to become competitive, Sharapova's serve completely disintegrated, the seventh seed hitting three double faults in one game to concede her serve once again.
With the gusty wind picking up around Paris, Li also struggled on serve and immediately dropped her serve for a second time when Sharapova found a forehand return of serve winner.
But once again Sharapova could not take advantage of the lifeline offered to her and handed Li two set points against serve, going on to concede the first set when her high forehand got caught by the wind, hitting the top of the tape and bouncing well wide.
Despite looking in real trouble on her serve, and seemingly having lost all confidence, Sharapova made the better start to the second set, breaking in the opening game when Li threw in her first double fault, and going on to drop just two points in her first three service games of the set.
Hlts Na Li - Sharapova
In a match characterised by errors, the early stages of the second set was Li's turn to look shaky on serve as Sharapova completely turned things around with a break in the opening game.
Sharapova then went on to drop just two points in her first three service games of the set but just as she looked on course to force a deciding set at 4-2 up, the wheels came off in dramatic style once again.
The Russian gifted Li the break back, bookending the eighth game with a pair of double faults to leave things back on level terns once again.
Sharapova did recover her composure enough to hold serve two games later to keep the match alive but Li had the final within her sights and applied pressure to the Sharapova serve, which broke down once again to hand the Chinese player her place in the final.
"She played a very good match. She certainly played a lot better than I did and a lot more solid, and she played the crucial points better," Sharapova said.
"At times I didn't serve well, and was rushing more than maybe I had to, and considering the conditions maybe I was just trying to go for too big a second serve especially."Pippa Davis / Eurosport