Li Reaches First US Open Semifinal

Li Na let some leads go in the second set but regrouped with a phenomenal third set to beat Ekaterina Makarova and become the first Chinese player ever to reach the semifinals of the US Open.

Published September 03, 2013 12:04

Li Reaches First US Open Semifinal
Li Na

NEW YORK, NY, USA - Li Na showed some impressive mental toughness on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday, regrouping after letting some leads go in the second set and getting past Ekaterina Makarova in three sets to reach her first US Open semifinal - the first Chinese ever in the US Open semifinals.

Li had beaten Makarova in all three previous meetings, and she looked headed for a straight set win this time as she built a 64 31 lead; after Makarova got the break back and pushed the second set to a tie-break Li went up again, going up 3-0 and 4-2 - but the Russian snuck out the breaker anyway.

But the No.5-seeded Li cooled off, collected herself and put together a near-flawless third set - 14 winners to just five unforced errors - and she got past the No.24-seeded Makarova, 64 67(5) 62.

In spite of the hiccup in the second set, Li still finished the match with overall positive numbers, hitting 44 winners to 42 unforced errors - but she wasn't completely satisfied about the whole match.

"I'm not so happy with the way I played today," Li said after the match. "Today was the first time I was feeling so nervous. It started from the beginning of the match until the end of the match. But I was happy that at least I was fighting a lot on the court. Even if I wasn't playing my best tennis, I was still fighting and I'm still in the tournament. I think that's something even better than the last round.

"Even when I lost the second set, I still felt like, 'Okay, it's still one set all. You still have a chance. Let's just try to go point by point and hang in there, and just stay out there on the court and fight."

Chinese players had been to the semifinals of all the other majors - Li and Zheng Jie in Australia, Li at Roland Garros, Zheng at Wimbledon - but none had ever been this far at the US Open, until now.

"You know, I always try to be the first one!" Li said of the news. "But of course it's exciting. It's my first time in the semis of the US Open. I was really proud of myself, because this is the last Grand Slam before the end of the year, and I was fighting a lot on the court and just trying my best out there."

And as the Chinese trailblazer starts to feel more at home here, how does here feel compared to home? "I think New York is pretty similar like Beijing," Li described. "There are so many people walking around and it's a very busy city. So for me I'm not feeling much different here in New York."

Li's next opponent wasn't determined yet - No.1 seed Serena Williams and No.18 seed Carla Suárez Navarro took Arthur Ashe Stadium at night. But Li wasn't too hasty to think about it too much yet.

"For me today, I don't have to think about more tennis, I have two days off now!" Li said. "I'm just going to relax today and then tomorrow I'll maybe do a bit of warming up and preparing for Friday."

Makarova, who had taken out No.3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska the round before, was playing in her third Grand Slam quarterfinal. She is now 0-3 in those, having also fallen at the quarterfinal stage at the Australian Open the last two years (losing in straight sets to Maria Sharapova in both matches).

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