Tennis is a game of match-ups where you hope what you like to do makes your opponent uncomfortable.
Li got off to a flying start once again, dominated the majority of baseline exchanges and finishing strongly at the net to surge to World No.3 when next week's rankings come out.
Li liked playing Kvitova's game style much more than the other way around in this match. Kvitova likes to play hard and flat from the ground, which will go through most players - except Li. In fact, Li feeds off the pace and actually uses it back against her opponents. The harder Kvitova hit it the harder it came back. Kvitova was the one having to make adjustments - not the other way around.
Li won 59% (48 of 83) of her baseline points, which is a very dominant number, while Kvitova only won 39% (30 of 76) of her baseline points, which makes for a tough day at the office.
This had a domino effect on the winners column with Li hitting 18 and Kvitova only hitting 14. And to make matters worse for Kvitova she was getting very few free points from her Chinese opponent. Li only committed 15 unforced errors for the match while Kvitova was almost double that at 30. It's hard to find a way to win when your opponent is dominating in so many different ways around the court.
Kvitova is very good at stretching the court with her lefty patterns but Li happens to be exceptional when pulled wide off the court. Li has wonderful natural angles back crosscourt that fit like a glove with her technique. So the problem develops that the more Kvitova pulled Li off the court, the more Kvitova would be in trouble even wider when the ball came back. That's bad math.
Kvitova was also forced to move away from her favorite lefty patterns, particularly the forehand through the ad court, because of the strength of Li's backhand. Hawk-Eye visualization showed Kvitova actually hit 64% of her groundstrokes through the deuce court trying to break down Li's forehand and only 36% through the ad court to the backhand.
On the other side of the net Li was trying to play ad court tennis. She directed 56% of her shots through the ad court and only 44% through the deuce. SAP analytics showed that Li also owned the front of the court as well, where she won 80% (4/5) of her net points compared to only 50% (6/12) for Kvitova.
Li was feeling it early in the match and crushed two winners in the opening game to immediately get the first break of serve. With Li serving at 15-0 in the following game she made her way to the net with a backhand approach down the line and stuck a short angle backhand volley winner that really couldn't be executed any better. Li would break again to go up 3-0 with the help of some double faults from Kvitova.
Li would drop serve at 3-1 when she committed two first shot forehands right after her serve. Li's forehand is much better crosscourt than down the line and this was where the errors flowed. Kvitova would break a couple of games later to even the set at 4-4 after coming back from 0-40 in that game. Kvitova returned exceptionally well at 3-4, firing deep returns right down the middle of the court to take Li's time away immediately following the serve.
But Kvitova would get broken in the very next game after failing to convert two game points of her own. At ad out Kvitova controlled the start of the rally but left a ball sitting in the middle of the court and Li crushed a backhand as hard as she could cross through the ad that forced a forehand error. Kvitova had a break point at 30-40 in the next game but had a bad miss because of slow preparation on a routine forehand. The set ended two points later.
Both players broke each other to begin the second set and Li started missing way more return of serves than we are used to seeing - three in the 1-1 game. Li would break again at 2-2 after Kvitova missed a risky forehand down the line and would not drop another game for the rest of the set. Kvitova failed to convert a break point 2-3, 30-40 with a point that keep stretching wider and wider until Kvitova missed a tough backhand. These style of points always favored Li in the match. Li would break again and hold for a very solid semifinal victory. Li will face Serena Williams in tomorrow's final.