World No. 2 Maria Sharapova took eight games in a row to cruise past home favourite Li Na 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals at the China Open tennis on Saturday.
Sharapova, who entered the final without dropping a set, demolished Li’s hope to become the first Chinese finalist here. The final drew some 15,000 crowd at the National Tennis Stadium, Xinhua reports.
The Russian second seed will bid for her first China Open title when she takes on Victoria Azarenka in Sunday’s final. The Belarusian top seed defeated Marion Bartoli of Germany 6-4, 6-2 in the another semifinal.
Li, Asia’s first Grand Slam winner, had a good start by breaking in the third game of the first set and established a 3-1 lead due to some poor serving by Sharapova, including three consecutive double faults in one game.
“In those first few games I thought my percentage of first serve was low. Against someone like Li Na who likes to take the ball early, I put a lot of pressure on myself to hit too many second serves,” said Sharapova.
“My goal after that was just to get my first-serve percentage much higher than it was in the first three or four games.”
Sharapova steadied herself and turned the table on Li by breaking back in the sixth game to level at 3-3. She put Li under relentless pressure in the tenth game when leading at 5-4, and took the first set after Li hit one long.
Sharapova was more aggressive in the second set, while Li seemed wilted after the first-set loss. Sharapova then wrapped up the victory with a quick bagel.
Li, however, was satisfied with her performance.
“I performed well, but she was better than me, and she had better control of the match,” said Li, who was awarded the eighth and final spot in the year-ending WTA event after she entered the semifinals.