Williams, Li set up enticing Miami showdown

Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:57am EDT
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By Steve Keating

MIAMI (Reuters) - Serena Williams and Li Na swept past familiar foes at the Sony Open on Thursday, setting up an exciting showdown for the Miami hardcourt crown between the world's top ranked players.

World number one Williams continued her utter domination of Maria Sharapova with a 6-4 6-3 win over the fourth-seeded Russian, while second-ranked Li won a rematch of her Australian Open final, beating Dominika Cibulkova 7-5 2-6 6-3 to maintain her perfect record against the Slovakian.

A six-time Miami champion, the American's victory ran her winning streak against Sharapova to 15 matches, a stunning run that stretches back to 2004.

Li's mastery over Cibulkova may not span as many years but is no less complete, the Chinese veteran sweeping all seven of their meetings over a decade-long span.

Three of those wins have come this year, with Asia's first grand slam singles champion defeating the Slovakian in straight sets at Melbourne Park, in three sets at Indian Wells two weeks ago and now at Miami.

"Good challenge. The last time I played her (Williams) was in the (WTA Tour) Championships so it has been four months and this time we really can see how I have improved," Li told reporters as she looked ahead to the final.

"I am really happy I can play her again. Everyone will be confident if they come to the final. I think for sure it will be a tough match."

The 10th seeded Cibulkova had looked ready to deny tennis fans a marquee final between the best two players in the world when she stormed back to take the second set and opened the third with a break to forge a 3-1 lead.   Continued...

Mar 27, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Serena Williams (right) shakes hands with Maria Sharapova (left) after their match on day eleven of the Sony Open at Crandon Tennis Center. Wiliams won 6-4, 6-3. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports