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Li, Sharapova Set For AO Semis

2011 AO finalist Li Na and 2008 AO winner Maria Sharapova each advanced in straight sets to set up the first semifinals at this year's event.

By Erik Gudris

Li Na Australian Open (January 21, 2012) -- A former champion and a former finalist of the Australian Open set up a blockbuster women's semifinal as Li Na and Maria Sharapova advanced on Day 9 in Melbourne.

In the first quarterfinal of the day, No. 6 seed Li and No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanksa needed 13 minutes to decide the opening game that finally went the way of Li. Both women traded multiple breaks of serve as Li racked up 21 unforced errors mid-way through the set. Radwanska managed to hit only one winner.

The first set, which lasted just over an hour, became a tug of war between Li's powerful groundstrokes and Radwanska's ability to make Li hit one extra ball. After breaking at love, Radwanska served for the set at 5-4 but found herself broken at love by Li.

Hitting with more purpose, especially with her backhand, Li secured another break of serve and closed out the set 7-5.

Radwanska won the next eight points and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the second set. But after Li evened the score at 2-all, Radwanska appeared unable to keep up with Li's heavy ball striking. Li started churning out winner after winner to move ahead 5-2. And though Radwanska threatened Li with two break points as she attempted to serve it out at 5-3, Li kept her cool and fought back to close out the match 7-5, 6-3.

The victory sends Li back into the semis of Melbourne for the third time in the last four years. Li will also move up to No. 5 in the world at the end of the tournament.

Li, who lost to Radwanska earlier in the month in Sydney, said having an extra day off between matches in Melbourne helped her.

"At least this time I'm fit," said Li. "Not like last time.  I think last time I was a little bit tired of all the traveling. I mean, you know, the Grand Slam, you can play one day and another day have day off. I was feeling much, much better."

Efficient Sharapova Cruises into Semis Over Makarova

Maria Sharapova may have had to wait longer than she anticipated to step onto court as the David Ferrer versus Nicolas Almagro match went longer than expected. But once she did, Sharapova didn't waste anytime as she took on fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the second women's quarterfinal.

Makarova did manage to break Sharapova's serve in the first set but it a was short-lived triumph as Sharapova broke back and then raced away with the set 6-2. Sharapova went on to drop only four games the entire match as she wrapped yet another efficient victory 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour.

When asked if she would have preferred being tested on her path to the semis, that includes only dropping nine games so far, Sharapova took a different view.

"Well, going into the match, my goal is not really to be tested (laughter). I don't know how else to put it. If I do come into a situation where I feel like I have to pull through or I'm not playing my best tennis or she's up and I have to find a way to win, then that's what you have on that given day."

In women's doubles quarterfinal action, No. 1 seeds Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci survived a tough set battle against Serena and Venus Williams with the Italians winning 3-6, 7-6(1), 7-5.

(Photo Credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve


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