Bartoli Battles Back, Beijing Semifinals Set
Published October 05, 2012 12:00
BEIJING, China - The race to the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012 came to an end more than 4,000 miles away in Beijing on Friday, as Li Na beat Agnieszka Radwanska in her quarterfinal match at the Premier-level China Open, thus securing the eighth and final spot in the season-ender.
Though she wasn't the favorite in terms of ranking, Li had won the pair's last two meetings very routinely during the summer hardcourt season - by scorelines of 62 61 and 61 61 - and this time the No.7 seed was in control again, tucking away a 57-minute first set and pulling away completely from 1-2 in the second set, reeling off five games in a row to outdo the No.3 seed again, 64 62.
"I'm very satisfied with my performance here this year," Li said. "After last year, when I didn't play really well here and lost early, me and my team went back and made some adjustements and I'm playing at a high level this time."
And on qualifying for Istanbul? "If I didn't qualify, Beijing would have been my last tournament of the year, so this is good news for me. It's a very big reward."
"I thought we played a high level of tennis the first set and a half, and even though the scoreline was 60 30 there were many games that went to deuce," Sharapova said. "But it's no secret to everyone we are towards the end of the season. The schedule takes its toll. If it's bad, you've got to take care of it."
Sharapova leads Li in their head-to-head series, 7-4, but in their last match the World No.2 had to come back from the brink of defeat to win.
"We have always had really difficult matches," Sharapova said of Li. "And before I won the last two, she got me a couple of times. We have been back and forth with our results. But she's a Grand Slam champion and has been Top 10 for a long time. There's no reason why it shouldn't be a good match tomorrow."
The other semifinal will pit No.1 seed Victoria Azarenka against No.9 seed Marion Bartoli. Azarenka won a relatively close 6-2 first set against Romina Oprandi before completely steamrolling her in a 19-minute second set, 6-0, losing just four points; Bartoli rallied from 3-0 down in the third to beat Carla Suárez Navarro in a nail-biter in the last match of the day, 60 26 64.
"After losing the second set and being down 3-0 in the third it was hard to find a way to win, but I'm so happy I fought hard and was able to find a way," Bartoli said. "Obviously it's great for me to be in the semifinals of such a big event. And it's great to play against Vika again - she's the World No.1 and it's going to be a very big challenge, but I'll just go out there and try my best tomorrow."
Azarenka leads Bartoli in their head-to-head series, 8-3, but Bartoli has won three of their last five meetings, and in their last meeting it was the Frenchwoman who prevailed in Miami, ending Azarenka's perfect 26-0 start to the season - it was her third win over a No.1, following wins over Justine Henin at Wimbledon in 2007 and Jelena Jankovic at the Australian Open in 2009.
"I think she's an excellent player," Azarenka said. "She's very, very different from anybody else, unique I would say. I always feel she brings out her best game against top players. I definitely need to step up my game tomorrow.
"And it's a good motivation for revenge for me."