Li Na crashes Sharapova to reach second Australian Open final

Li Na crashes Sharapova to reach 2nd Australian Open final

Former French Open champion Li Na of China swept second-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2 to reach her second Australian Open final here on Thursday.

The China's top player reached her first Grand Slam final at the Melbourne Park in 2011 but lost to Kim Clijsters of Belgium in the final, just before she won Asia's first Grand Slam title in the French Open.

"I'm very happy now. Not so many players can reach the Grand Slam finals three times," said Li. "I insisted and I made back to this stage. It's something worth to be proud of."

Sharapova, who only lost a historical tournament-low nine games in her previous five matches, struggled with her serve from the very beginning of the match. She double faulted twice in her first serve game, allowing Li to break her in the first game.

Li held to lead 2-0 and then broke again for 4-1 with a cross-court return. Sharapova fought her way to three break points in the sixth game and secured the chance when Li missed a return.

Li returned the favour in the following game to lead 5-2. The No.6 seed served for the set, racing to 40-0 and wrapped the first set up in 48 minutes.

Li took the first service break in the second set to remain on track with a 3-2 lead, grabbed a second at 5-2 and served out the match. Sharapova saved one match point but Li made an ACE to take advantage again and didn't waste the second chance.

"In the beginning of the match I was nervous. I was happy I come back to semis again, but for some reasons I really want to win the match," said Li.

"Li played a really great match. She was certainly much more aggressive than I was and I was always on the defense," said Sharapova. "I was making too many unforced errors."

The straight-set victory improved Li's record against Sharapova to 5-8. The pair met three times in 2012 and the Russian won all of the clashes.

Li will play against the winner between defending champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens in the other semifinal later on Thursday.

Li played her first Grand Slam final at the Melbourne Park in 2011, losing to Kim Clijsters 6-3, 3-6, 3-6.

"2011 is the first time for me to a Grand Slam final. I was a little bit shocked because I didn't know what I should do. No one tell me what I should do on the court," said Li. "But this time I got more experiences, so I think it should be better."

Losing to Clijsters in her first Grand Slam final made Li Na hungry.

"That's the first time I was feeling I was really close to the title. I think this time should be a different story."

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