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Kerber Gets Past Li, Breaks Into Top 15

Angelique Kerber beat Li Na for the first time in four tries to reach the Indian Wells semis.

Published March 14, 2012 12:00

Kerber Gets Past Li, Breaks Into Top 15
Angelique Kerber

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - She barely made it out of her last two matches, saving match points in both of them, but on Wednesday Angelique Kerber lit up center court at the BNP Paribas Open, grinding out a 47-minute first set then cruising past No.8 seed Li Na in the second set to reach the semifinals.

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The No.18-seeded Kerber had lost all three of the pair's previous matches, but after toughing out the lengthy first set, which could have gone either way as Li held a point to make it 5-all, Kerber had little trouble in the second set, winning the last five games - and last 11 points - to prevail under the lights, 64 62.

"She was playing very tough, so I just tried to move very well and hit deep, just play aggressive tennis and focus on me," Kerber said. "I knew I had to be focused until the last point, though - the last two matches I was match point down and won, so I knew I needed to be focused until the last point today."

Kerber recorded her third career Top 10 win, having gotten her first two just last month in Paris (against Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli). Now she will take on the World No.1, though, a semifinal clash with Victoria Azarenka.

"I have nothing to lose in the next match," Kerber said of the looming semifinal. "I will go out there, try to play my tennis and focus on myself like today. But also I'm going to try to enjoy myself out there, and try to beat her, of course."

Kerber, who will crack the Top 15 by virtue of this result, is quietly becoming a household name: US Open semifinalist, knocking on the door of the Top 10. And as is with many of the world's tennis players in America, pronunciation might come easier by association - Kerber, whose name might look like it sounds like Care Bear, was asked in press if she ever watched the cartoon.

"No," the 24-year-old replied. "No. No, I never heard about it."

Li was very complimentary towards the young German. "Every time I had break point she hit a winner, so what could I do?" she said. "Last time I played her it was two years ago, so two years can change many things. Today I was a little bit surprised - she has unbelievable defense. Sometimes I thought I won the point but she just got the ball back all the time. It was a little bit tough."

Li was still happy to avoid the opening round loss she had last year. "This result isn't bad. I mean, I'm not losing first round here, so I was happy," she said. "I still have to go back to the court and work even harder for Miami now."

Kerber will be playing Azarenka for the first time. She will be playing a World No.1 for the third time, going 0-2 in her first two attempts, and 0-4 in sets (she lost to Justine Henin in 2008 and Caroline Wozniacki in 2011).

Azarenka beat Agnieszka Radwanska earlier in the day (read more here).

The two quarterfinals are on Thursday, with No.7 seed Bartoli facing No.15 seed Ana Ivanovic and No.2 seed Sharapova against No.20 seed Maria Kirilenko.

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