STUTTGART, Germany - Li Na put a stop to the dream run of Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the semifinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Saturday evening, doing everything just a little bit better than the American qualifier to move through to the final of the Premier-level event in straight sets, 64 63.
Mattek-Sands had put together a sensational run through the tournament already, coming out of the qualifying and making it all the way to the semis - even taking out the No.4-seeded Sara Errani along the way. But the No.2-seeded Li's mix of power and consistency was just too much this time.
"If you look at the score it was 4 and 3, but if you look at the match it was pretty tight in every game," Li said. "She played fantastic tennis this week. She got a lot of confidence and she played a lot of tennis as well. You could see it when she was just standing on the court, that she's really confident.
"In the second set I felt I dropped down a bit in energy, but I'm happy I could win in the end."
Li is now through to the 17th WTA final of her career. She has a 7-9 record in her first 16.
"I'm really happy I will be in the final, but the tournament hasn't finished yet, so one more step," Li said. "In the other years I came here I was probably thinking too much about winning and losing. This time I'm thinking more about what I should do for this point, for the next point, the next point and so on."
Mattek-Sands was gracious in defeat. "She played awesome - she's playing some awesome tennis right now," she said. "I did my best. Definitely the legs are a little bit tired, but she played fantastic, and that's how she won. She's a good friend of mine actually, so I wish her the best for tomorrow.
"It's been a great week. There's been a lot I can take away. Obviously I would love to have driven away with a Porsche, but not this year. And I'm in the doubles final tomorrow, so I'm really excited."
Mirza, Mattek-Sands' doubles partner, was thoroughly impressed. "Our match was really good today," she said. "It's been a tough week for Bethanie. She's been playing a lot and has had a lot of good wins. Unfortunately she lost today, but she's playing great. We've always combined well together - it's our first tournament together on the clay this year, so we're excited to be playing in the final now."
"She plays so aggressively and she's a big fighter, too," Li said of Sharapova. "I have to be really focused from the first point to the end of the match. I hope we will play a good match tomorrow."