Li Looks For Seventh Title In Shenzhen

Li Na and Klara Zakopalova will face off in the Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open final on Saturday.

Published January 04, 2013 05:12

Li Looks For Seventh Title In Shenzhen
Li Na

SHENZHEN, China - The inaugural Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open final will feature Chinese legend Li Na and fellow 30-year-old Klara Zakopalova.

Zakopalova, who is two days older than Li, is 2-1 in their series but only managed one game in their most recent encounter at Indian Wells last year.

Both players have been dominant this week, not giving up more than four games in a set - with Zakopalova only surrendering 18 games to Li's 21.

In her 64 60 semifinal defeat of fellow Chinese Peng Shuai on Friday, the top-seeded Li found herself in an early 3-1 hole but dropped only one more game the rest of the way.

"I expected today to be a very tough match, as last time we met at the 2012 China Open, it was a tough one," said Li, who is now 5-1 all-time against Peng. "It's always tough to play a player who is from the same country, as we're just too familiar with each other.

"She was more stable in the beginning of the first set and I was making unforced errors. But I didn't worry too much about it. Last time it was similar; I was down for a while and managed to come back and win in the end."

Li commented on the chilly conditions the players have been dealing with all week.

"We thought it would be warmer here, but we can't change or choose the weather," Li said. "We wear more to protect ourselves and we're grateful that the tournament has been thoughtful enough to add portable heaters on court to fight the cold."

As for Zakopalova, she recorded a routine 61 63 victory over Monica Niculescu in her semifinal.

"I knew I had to be very patient," Zakopalova said. "You can't hit winners off Monica's slice.

"It's cold here. But I came from Europe where it's much colder, so for me it's not that cold."

Niculescu was filled with praise for her Czech opponent.

"Klara played very well," Niculescu said. "She was hitting everything in. Because of this weather, the balls were heavy and weren't jumping. She was hitting fast and without any tension, just hitting every corner. I knew she was going to do that, but I didn't know every ball was going to be like that!"

Zakopalova will be playing in her first final since Seoul in 2010 and is looking for her third WTA title and first since Portoroz in 2005.

"She is one of the top players in the world and has won a Grand Slam," Zakopalova said of Li. "She's a favorite here, so I have nothing to lose. I'll just go on court and fight for every point."

Li is looking for her seventh WTA title and her second in her home country, as her maiden title came at Guangzhou in 2004. She is projected to rise a spot to No.6 on the new rankings, while Zakopalova is projected to surpass her career-high of No.27 regardless of Saturday's result.

Top-seeded Taiwanese sisters Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan will play unseeded Irina Buryachok and Valeria Solovieva in the doubles final.

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