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Li Survives Cibulkova, Serena Next

Li Na regrouped to beat Dominika Cibulkova in a Thursday night thriller to set up a dream Sony Open Tennis final between the Top 2 players in the world.

Published March 27, 2014 12:14

MIAMI, FL, USA - Li Na regrouped to beat Dominika Cibulkova in the semis of the Sony Open Tennis, setting up a dream final at the Premier Mandatory event between the Top 2 players in the world.

Watch highlights, interviews and more video from Miami right here on wtatennis.com!

Though Li had won all six of her previous meetings with Cibulkova, barely any of them had been easy - including a two-and-a-half-hour-plus three-setter in the quarters of Indian Wells two weeks ago.

And this one wasn't too different. For two hours and 15 minutes two of the most in-form players this year went toe-to-toe under the lights of center court, with proceedings staying very even for the first set and a half - Li still managed to stay just ahead of Cibulkova at that point, building a 75 22 lead.

That's when Cibulkova upped her aggression though. Firing on all cylinders - particularly off her favored forehand side - Cibulkova reeled off six games in a row, and eight of the next nine, to not only run away with the second set, 6-2, but go up 3-1 in the third. She even had a point for a 4-1 lead.

But maybe that's when history came into play. From that point for a 4-1 third set deficit Li ran off four games in a row - and 16 of 21 points - to go up 5-3, and after a few loose errors on her first two match points, the No.2-seeded Chinese finally shut the door on the No.10-seeded Slovak, 75 26 63.

"I'm so happy I can be in the final here for the first time," Li said in her on-court interview. "Thanks to everyone who came to watch - I know it was cold tonight, but I hope you enjoyed the match."

Both players had negative winners-to-errors differentials, Li -10 (33-43) and Cibulkova -12 (23-35). And the windy conditions were likely the biggest contributor to that - but how does one win like that?

"The only things I could do were run as much as I could and fight for every point," Li explained.

Li was already the first Chinese ever to reach the semifinals here, and now she's the first Chinese ever to reach the final - and her magnetic personality shone through when she was informed of that.

"I know it's the first time, but not the last time," she said with a smile.

Awaiting the World No.2 in the final will be the World No.1, Serena Williams, who battled past Maria Sharapova in straight sets in the first semifinal, which was played earlier (read more here).

Williams leads Li in their head-to-head series, 10-1, and has won their last nine meetings.

Li was asked about the challenges of playing Williams in her post-match press conference.

"It's a good challenge, I think," she said. "The last time I played her was in the WTA Championships, so three, four months already. Here we can really see how I've improved in these three, four months."

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