Li Na slays Sharapova to book spot in final
China's Li Na crushed Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the final of the Australian Open on Thursday.
Sharapova had conceded only nine games coming into the match but Asia's first Grand Slam singles champion broke the Russian three times to capture the first set and twice in the second to serve for the match at 5-2.
With the temperature rising above 34 Celsius (93F), the 30-year-old Chinese kept her cool to close out the match in one hour and 33 minutes on the second match point when Sharapova clubbed a return into the net.
Li, also a finalist in 2011, will play Victoria Azarenka or Sloane Stephens in the final.
Image: Na Li celebrates a point during her semi-final against Maria Sharapova on Thursday
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
'She was much more aggressive than I was'
Keeping Sharapova pinned to the baseline and jumping on her second serve, Li raced to a 4-1 lead courtesy of an imperious backhand down the line on the third break-point of the game.
Sharapova, struggling to breach Li's defences with her serve, smacked a huge backhand return to claw back a break but was broken again when she netted.
Li marched on to raise three set points, closing it out in style by blasting a cross-court forehand that kissed the line.
With the temperature rising above 34 Celsius (93F), Sharapova began to take swings at everything Li threw at her and raised a breakpoint at 1-0, but the Chinese showed nerves of steel, cancelling it out with a cross-court forehand winner that grazed the line.
Li pressed again at 2-2, with Sharapova conceding a second break point in the game with her fifth double-fault and then smacking a backhand long to fall behind 3-2.
Li ripped three huge serves to stave off a breakpoint in the following game, enjoying a rush of confidence that she rode to victory.
"I think she played a really great match, she was much more aggressive than I was and dictating the play," Sharapova said."There's no reason why she can't (win the final)"
Image: Maria Sharapova reacts during her match against Li Na on Thursday
Photographs: Damir Sagolj/Reuters
Azarenka bursts Stephens's bubble to enter final
Victoria Azarenka overcame troubling injuries to end the fairytale run of American teenager Sloane Stephens on Thursday and advance to the Australian Open final against China's Li Na.
Last year's champion, despite the effects of injuries she appeared to sustain to her left knee and then her ribs, was relatively comfortable against the 19-year-old Stephens to run out a 6-1, 6-4 winner.
The 23-year-old Belarusian, however, will look forward to two days recovery before the final against Li, who had demolished Maria Sharapova earlier, after she appeared to sustain the injuries early in the second set.Azarenka looked flustered for the rest of the match and her frustration level increased when Stephens saved five match points when the Belarussian was serving while leading 5-3, but she took her next opportunity on Stephens' next service game.
Image: Victoria Azarenka of Belarus celebrates winning her semi-final match against Sloane Stephens on Thursday
Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Djokovic in line for third successive Aus Open title
Novak Djokovic wasted little time in advancing to his third successive Australian Open final with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 destruction of fourth seed David Ferrer in 89 minutes on Thursday.
The World No 1 was in no mood to allow Ferrer the opportunity to come back from a two-set deficit as the Spaniard did against compatriot Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-finals, and blasted him off court.
The 25-year-old Serbian, seeking to become the first man in the professional era to win three successive Australian Open titles, played the best tennis of his tournament with television commentators suggesting that on such form he would be unstoppable in Sunday's final.
Djokovic will meet the winner of Friday's semi-final between second seed Roger Federer and third seed Andy Murray.
Image: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates defeating David Ferrer of Spain during the men's singles semi-final on Thursday
Photographs: Damir Sagolj/Reuters