PHOTOS: Li Na stuns Sharapova to enter Australian Open final
Jan 24, 2013, 19:47 PM IST
Melbourne: In what came across as a major upset, China’s Li Na stunned Russia’s Maria Sharapova on Thursday to storm into the Australian Open final. The Chinese star overpowered second-seeded Russian in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 to get a shot at the Grand Slam title.
Sharapova had broken a tournament record in conceding just nine games in reaching the last four but she was overwhelmed by Li, whose heavy-hitting, high-risk game reaped maximum reward.
In the face of blazing winners from all angles, second seed Sharapova had no answer as Li romped to a 6-2 6-2 win.
"I always play well here," observed Li after a 93-minute masterclass.
Li, who reached the final here in 2011 and a few months later become the first Asian player to win a grand slam crown at Roland Garros, set the tone early on, two breaks of serve handing her a 4-1 lead her dominance merited.
Sharapova got one back but the world number six swiftly reasserted her authority by breaking again before wrapping up the first set.
A shell-shocked Sharapova battled to find a route back into the contest in the second but could not find any fluency as her opponent's greater power and clever angles consistently put her on the back foot.
The Russian saw a break point swatted aside with another forehand winner from Li and she could not get any closer due to an uncharacteristically high 32 unforced errors.
Li broke for 3-2 and then again for 5-2 thanks to a backhand winner.
Not for the first time, Li got the jitters in attempting to close out the match but another sloppy groundstroke from Sharapova did the job.
Li will meet the winner of the clash between Sloane Stephens, who beat Serena Williams on Wednesday, and Victoria Azarenka in Saturday's final.
Here’s a look at some prominent events of the match: