Kim Clijsters is heading to her eighth Grand Slam final while challenger Li Na plays a historic first for China after the pair on Thursday dispatched the top two seeds in semifinal upsets at the Australian Open.
Li saved a match point to knock number one Caroline Wozniacki out 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, becoming the first Chinese woman to reach the final of a Grand Slam.
“I had a match point, and I didn’t take it,” Wozniacki said of the second set. “From then on, she was just better at the most important points. She won the most important one, which was the last one.”
Clijsters denied Russian second-seed Vera Zvonareva a third consecutive final at a major with her 6-3, 6-3 victory in 73 minutes.
“I rose to the occasion,” said Clijsters. “I’ve played a lot of big matches.
Even losing them teaches you a few things.” Li pulled a rabbit out of her hat on court with just days to go before the start of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rabbit. She scrambled to save herself in the second set when Wozniacki failed on a match point as Li sent a forehand winner down the line.
The Dane put the see-sawing match into a deciding third set on a double-fault, one of her 24 unforced errors in the epic lasting just more than two and a half hours.
“This is good for my tennis career, of course, good for my team, maybe good for China tennis,” Li said. “This is a good experience for my whole life. Many players play a long time and never come to the final of a Grand Slam.”
The Chinese world number 11 earned a third set break for 4-2 only to lose her serve in the next game, but the Asian challenger got it back for a 5-3 lead and served out the historic win a game later when Wozniacki landed a forehand long.
The winner finished with seven breaks from 10 chances while Wozniacki converted six of 13. Li fired 42 winners in her go-for-broke style with 51 unforced errors.
“I’m so happy,” the winner of three of four matches against Wozniacki said. “I was nervous in the first set, and I didn’t have a good sleep. My husband [also her coach] was restless. I woke up every hour.”
Keywords: Australian Open