Errani had been 0-6 against Li, while losing 12 straight sets, and had mustered just five games combined in their two previous clay court meetings. And she was just 1-32 against Top 5 opponents, with her lone victory coming over No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska at Roland Garros last year.
Former French Open champion Li came into this encounter an impressive 26-4 on the year and having been dominant in her two matches so far this week.
The Turning Point
On serve but down 3-2 in the first set, the 10th-seeded Errani reeled off four straight games to take the set. After Li edged Errani in the second set and the players split the first four games of the third set, Errani again won four consecutive games for a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 triumph.
By The Numbers
Errani converted on eight of 13 break point opportunities compared to five of 14 for Li. The win allowed Errani to match her best Rome showing, a semifinal outing last year, which is significant for ranking points and seeding for the upcoming French Open.
"I had never beaten her, but the crowd helped me so much and was amazing," Errani said. "They supported me every point. It meant a lot to me. It was an unbelievable match."
"My French Open preparation was still better than last year," Li said. "I have nine or 10 days until Paris, so I'll take a couple days off to recover and see how my body is feeling and then prepare for Paris."
Errani plays No.6 seed Jelena Jankovic, with whom she has split her two meetings. She needs to reach the Rome final to preserve her chance of remaining the Italian No.1 ahead of Flavia Pennetta.
Grazie a tutti per i vostri tantissimi messaggi!! GRAZIE!!! Pubblico incredibile!! ??? ora doppio!! #forza