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Li Tops Radwanska Down Under

Li Na ended Agnieszka Radwanska's perfect start to the season on Tuesday to become the first player into the semifinals of the Australian Open. The Chinese will also return to the Top 5 now.

Published January 22, 2013 12:00

Li Tops Radwanska Down Under
Agnieszka Radwanska, Li Na

MELBOURNE, Australia - Everyone remembers her historic French Open victory, but this is where the big breakthroughs really began - first Grand Slam semifinal in 2010, first Grand Slam final in 2011 - and now Li Na is through to the Australian Open semifinals again, ending Agnieszka Radwanska's perfect start to the season in the first quarterfinal match of the tournament on Tuesday afternoon, 75 63.

Neither player had much momentum in the first set - Radwanska went up a break three times only to be broken back right away each time, including getting broken when serving for the set at 5-4. But that's when Li finally pounced, breaking for 6-5 and serving the set out, then after an early lapse in the second set - she lost the first two games - the No.6-seeded Chinese's power was just too much the rest of the match, winning six of the next seven games to close the No.4 seed out in straight sets.

Once the match was all over and her walls came down, Li's humor shone through in her on-court interview - when asked about a framed serve she hit in the match that went into the stands, she delivered a one-liner to remember. "I wanted to have good communication with the fans," she said.

Li is now through to her fourth Grand Slam semifinal, having been a semifinalist here in 2010 (losing to Serena Williams), a finalist here in 2011 (losing to Kim Clijsters) and winning the French Open in 2011.

The Chinese talked in her presser about recovering from the early second set lapse. "I was feeling my legs couldn't move - when I started serving again at the beginning of the second set I felt like I was totally dying," she said. "It was hard to recover, but after two games it started getting better and better.

"I felt like I was playing against a wall. She can hit everywhere, but without a mistake. You have to focus on every shot. Not even just every point - every shot. And if you hit a slow or a short one, she'll attack."

Radwanska had beaten Li in Sydney 12 days ago. "This time I'm fit - last time I was a little bit tired of the travelling," Li said. "At the Grand Slams you can play one day and the other days you have off. So this time I was feeling much, much better. Also, with the day off, you can prepare yourself."

Li was also asked whether anything has changed in her mentality since her last time going this deep into a Grand Slam. "To win a Grand Slam, you have to win seven matches - doesn't matter if you're lucky or unlucky, you still have to win seven matches. Before I thought, 'If I win who will I play in the fourth round or fifth round.' Now I've changed - I didn't look at the draw, I just take it match by match."

Having been as high as No.4 in the world, Li is projected to return to the Top 5 with this win.

The No.4-ranked Radwanska was gracious in defeat, as always. "She played better than she did in Sydney," she said. "Definitely she was very solid from the beginning of the match. Some of the games she didn't let me do anything. Very deep balls all the time, good serve - she was really playing well."

And on the semifinals? "I think Maria's on fire, so I think she's going to play her," Radwanska predicted. "But then I think it's 50/50, to be honest. They're both playing very well this week. It's hard to say."

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