China’s Li Na dispatched Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4 to reach the Australian Open semifinals for the second straight year.

The 30th-seeded Petkovic said that her Chinese opponent was her tip to win the tournament.

“I wish I can win the tournament,” Li said, when told of Petkovic’s prediction. “But if I need to win tournament, still have two steps I need to do. (It’s) always easy to say something.”

Li, 28, has become a crowd favourite in Melbourne with a demeanour that is all business on court but that quickly turns to snappy one-liners in broken English that reveals a quick wit and sharp sense of humour.

Li’s light-hearted remark that her coach and husband Jiang Shan’s biggest influence was to promise to let her loose with their credit card if she won, has become a running joke of the tournament. She was asked courtside on Tuesday if her quarterfinal victory was enough to win a shopping spree, or whether she needed to go all the way to the championship.

“No, end of the tournament,” she said with a smile, pointing toward her support box, where Jiang and her team had been a minute earlier but the seats were now empty. “You can see now - the credit card, he just left, you can’t find him anymore.”

Li gave up tennis for two years to do media studies at university after becoming disillusioned with her lack of rankings success and re-entered the game in 2004.

“After two years, I was feeling like, OK, I’m grown up, I should stand up to try my best.” she said.

Now, she’s playing better and is far happier on the court than she used to be. And with every game, the prospect of a new Chinese hero grows closer. “Wow, amazing for me, amazing for my team,” Li said, asked what it would mean to win the tournament. “Maybe amazing for China tennis also.”

Keywords: Australian Open

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