Li Na came out firing - she won 20 of the first 23 points of the match - and ended up beating Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets to get a step closer to the second Grand Slam title of her career.
WTA Staff

MELBOURNE, Australia - With a phenomenal start and a solid finish, Li Na battled past Eugenie Bouchard in the first semifinal of the Australian Open - one step closer to her second Grand Slam title.

After having to save match point to win her third round match, Li clearly fine tuned her game, dropping just six games in her fourth round and quarterfinal matches - that form clearly carried over to her semifinal match against Bouchard, as she won 20 of the first 23 points of the match to lead 5-0.

Things got tighter from there. Bouchard won four of the next five games, eventually dropping the first set, 6-2, but going up 2-0 in the second set - but the No.4-seeded Li found her range once again from there, reeling off six of the next eight games to close out the No.30-seeded Canadian, 62 64.

Li ended the match on a backhand winner after a long, scrappy rally - her 35th winner of the match.

"I think I played very well at the beginning of the match," Li said. "The second set was a little bit tight, because I was feeling like maybe I already had one foot in the final, but she also played so well.

"I just kept trying to play point by point because the match still had to continue."

Li is now through to her fourth Grand Slam final. She has one Grand Slam title - the French Open in 2011 - but has lost both of her other finals, both at the Australian Open, in 2011 (to Kim Clijsters) and 2013 (to Victoria Azarenka). The Chinese will try and make it third time lucky here this year.

"It's my third time in the final here, so I think I'm getting pretty close to the trophy," Li said. "At least I'll try not to fall down this time, because last year in the final I thought I was playing well but I can only say I was unlucky because I was falling down twice. This time I'll try to enjoy it and stay healthy."

After losing the first five games of the match, Bouchard shifted gears - and it worked for a while.

"I just wanted to get into the match a little bit more," the Canadian said. "I felt like she was really hitting her shots. I was kind of just letting her do all these winners side to side. It wasn't really my game. So I just tried to put some more pressure on her, because she was putting a lot of pressure on me.

"But she played really well. You have to give her credit. All of her groundstrokes were like a foot from the baseline and she was very consistent. I felt like she didn't give me much breathing space."

Bouchard still had a phenomenal fortnight, not just reaching the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time but extending that run all the way to her first Grand Slam semifinal. Her athleticism, poise under pressure and steely composure not only won her a lot of new fans, but a lot of new believers.

"I wouldn't say I exceeded my expectations, but I'm happy with how I did," Bouchard commented. "I always want to do better. To me it's not a surprise. I've been working hard my whole life to do this, to play at Grand Slams and do well. It's not an overnight thing and it's not a surprise to me.

"I'm just going to go back to the practice courts and keep working hard."