Li first Chinese Slam finalist
Will face Clijsters in women’s final
MELBOURNE, Australia – Kim Clijsters advanced to the Australian Open final with a comfortable win today over Vera Zvonareva and will play for the title against Li Na, who saved a match point en route to becoming the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam championship final by defeating top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki.
U.S. Open champion Clijsters, the only major winner among the four semifinalists, dictated play from the start against No. 2-ranked Zvonareva and won it 6-3, 6-3 – repeating the result of their U.S. Open final. Zvonareva had reached the previous two finals at the majors.
Li rallied to win the first of the women’s semifinals 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. Wozniacki, playing at a major for the first time with the No. 1 ranking, had match point at 5-4 and 40-30 in the second set before Li rallied. An hour and 6 minutes later, Li served out on her first match point.
Li beat Clijsters in the final of the leadup event at Sydney earlier this month, becoming the first Chinese woman to win a WTA premier event. It was just another first for Li, who was the first Chinese player to win a tour-level title and the first to enter the top 10. She is also the first player from Asia to reach a Grand Slam singles final.
“I’m so happy I can be the first Chinese player to come to a final – I always do the first one!” she said in a lighthearted interview after the match in which she joked about losing sleep on the eve of the match because her coach-husband Shan Jiang was snoring.
Asked what motivated her comeback, she deadpanned: “Prize money.”
Wozniacki could have ended the match in 1 hour, 29 minutes, but Li hit a forehand down the line, forcing an error and saving match point. It sparked a revival. She broke in that game to make it 5-5, held at love and then broke her Danish rival’s serve again – after Wozniacki three times had game points to force a tiebreaker – to make it level at one set apiece.
They traded breaks twice in the third set before Li held her nerve to finish it off when Wozniacki miscued a forehand.
Rafael Nadal’s bid to be the first man since 1969 to hold all four major titles at once ended in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal loss to David Ferrer on Wednesday night.
Nadal struggling with left thigh injury and needed treatment throughout the match.
“It’s a victory for me. But it’s not a victory really,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer will meet 2010 finalist Andy Murray in the semifinals. It was Murray who was leading Nadal by two sets and a break last year when the Spaniard withdrew with an injured right knee.
Murray had a struggle on his hands Wednesday, constantly trying to find his rhythm against Alexandr Dolgopolov before advancing 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3.