Li routs Sharapova, eyes second grand slam title

Thu Jan 24, 2013 2:54am EST
 

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - China's Li Na sent a wayward Maria Sharapova crashing out of the Australian Open semi-finals on Thursday and says there will be no repeat of her capitulation to Kim Clijsters in the 2011 Melbourne Park final.

Li crushed second seed Sharapova 6-2 6-2 at Rod Laver Arena, overpowering the in-form Russian in a breathtaking display of power hitting to set up her second title shot at Melbourne Park against defending champion Victoria Azarenka.

Two years ago, Li was in the box seat to beat Clijsters after taking the first set, but crumbled under the pressure and took her frustrations out on Chinese fans.

"(In) 2011, (the) first time to the grand slam final, I was a little bit shocked because I didn't know what I should do," Li told reporters.

"Also no one told me what I should do on the court. But this time I've got more experience, so I think I should be better."

The stinging loss to Clijsters spurred Li to win her sole major title at Roland Garros a few months later, but the 30-year-old Chinese had endured more than 18 months in the grand slam wilderness until her stunning revival in Melbourne.

Much of Li's struggles have been between the ears, struggling to deal with the heightened expectations from her home country of 1.3 billion people, but few nerves were on display as the sixth seed demolished Sharapova in one hour and 33 minutes in 34 Celsius (93F) heat.

Sharapova had charged into the semi-final like a freight train, conceding only nine games in the tournament and bullying a succession of weaker opponents.   Continued...

 
Li Na of China (L) shakes hands with Maria Sharapova of Russia after defeating her in their women's singles semi-final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj