Australian Open - Li powers into Melbourne semis

Tue, 25 Jan 08:49:00 2011

Li Na stormed into her second successive Australian Open semi-final with an impressive 6-2 6-4 victory that left vanquished opponent Andrea Petkovic tipping her to win China's first singles Grand Slam at Melbourne Park.

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Li, her country's first top-10 player, was broken in the first game of each set but recovered brilliantly with a clinic of clean hitting to bully the German off the baseline and wrap up victory in 80 minutes.

"I think she's going to win the tournament," said 30th-seeded Petkovic, who struggled in the sun at Rod Laver Arena after playing evening sessions in earlier matches.

"It's nothing that I can tell you, (whether) her forehand is good or her backhand. It's just the feeling, how she is on court, her confidence and the way she's playing.

"Sometimes you get the feeling during the match that somebody is really strong and just has that confidence going on, that aura maybe."

The 28-year-old Li has not conceded a set in her five matches at the tournament and will bid for a place in the final against top seed Caroline Wozniacki, who recovered from a set and 3-1 down to battle past a tiring Francesca Schiavone 3-6 6-3 6-3.

She carries a 10-match winning streak into the contest after winning the warm-up Sydney International title where she upset finalist Kim Clijsters, a likely opponent in the final at Rod Laver Arena.

Ominously for the women ahead of her in the draw, confidence player Li said she was enjoying her tennis more than last year, when she went down fighting to eventual champion Serena Williams.

"I think (I) was the same (as last year). But right now (I'm) feeling more happy on the court," said Li, who, with countrywoman Zheng Jie, became China's first singles Grand Slam semi-finalists last year.

"More enjoyment, because the team - how you say - (there's) more communication with the team.

"Right now (it's) happy around the team, yeah," said Li, who parted ways with her coach Thomas Hogstedt late last year and is now coached by her husband and former university sweetheart Jiang Shan.

Petkovic started brightly but Li quickly found her line, suffocating her opponent with fierce returns and blasted forehands that invariably seared the lines.

"She has this sneaky aggressive play, I would call it," Petkovic added.

"It's not like a big hitter like Maria Sharapova where you say, Okay, now she's going to smack the ball.

"It's more like sneaky aggressive. My coach called her the (Nikolay) Davydenko of women's tennis, which I find I don't know if it's fitting, but I think she's been playing very well," added Pekovic, referring to the crafty Russian journeyman.

Outgunned repeatedly in baseline duels, the German sprayed two forehands to concede the first set and slapped another forehand long to hand her Chinese opponent victory.

Li celebrated the win by yelping "Yeah!" and grinned at her husband in the stands.

Li mentioned earlier this week that her husband keeps a stern eye on her credit card purchases as well as on her next opponents, but said they had both been caught short when trying to study Petkovic ahead of their quarter-final on television.

"I think he will watch (Wozniacki's match). Today he should stay here (at the court), not like two days ago. They didn't show it (on TV). So, yeah, he needs to do something for me," she said.

Conference Na Li

Reuters

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