Beijing Semifinal Preview
Published October 05, 2012 04:21
BEIJING, China - Saturday at the National Tennis Center will see all four semifinalists in action. First up are home favorite Li Na and Maria Sharapova, before being followed on court by World No.1 Victoria Azarenka and Marion Bartoli.
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National Tennis Stadium
 Maria Sharapova (RUS #2) vs.  Li Na (CHN #8)
Head-to-head: Sharapova leads 7-4
The last time Maria Sharapova and Li Na stood on opposite sides of the court they served up quite the spectacle, trading blows at Rome's Foro Italico for three drama-filled hours to determine the winner of this year's the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. On that occasion, it was Sharapova who emerged triumphant, somehow digging herself out of a 64 40 shaped hole to lift the title.
Now the two renew acquaintances on Li's home turf with a place in the final of the year's final Premier Manadatory event on the line. Li, and the majority of the 15,000 inside the National Tennis Stadium, will be desperate for revenge and if she can replicate the form that disposed of Agnieszka Radwanska in the last round she could well get it.
Sharapova, though, looked just as impressive in her quarterfinal, winning all nine games before injury put Angelique Kerber out of her misery. Against Li, who possesses baseline power to rival her own, she is likely to be in for a tougher ride, and the outcome could well be determined by who finds their range and rhythm first.
 Victoria Azarenka (BLR #1) vs.  Marion Bartoli (FRA #10)
Head-to-head: Azarenka leads 8-3
For the first three months of 2012, Victoria Azarenka was unstoppable, compiling a 26-0 win-loss record en route to the Australian Open, Sydney, Doha and Indian Wells titles. Then she ran into Marion Bartoli.
On a balmy evening in Miami, Bartoli produced two sets of near flawless tennis, stepping inside the baseline to take away Azarenka's timing and her unbeaten record with it. Judging by the World No.1's performances en route to the last four, however, if she is to repeat the trick on Saturday, she will need to play even better.
Azarenka has dropped just 15 games thus far - fewer than any other remaining player - and took just 55 minutes to see off Romina Oprandi in the quarterfinals. While Bartoli's progress has not been quite so serene, her end-of-season form and penchant for an upset - she has 12 career Top 5 wins, including three over reigning No.1s - make her the most live of underdogs.
For more on today's matches, see our Match Notes in the Press Center.