- Australian Open, Day 11
Li Na shocks Sharapova to reach final
Li Na produced a supreme performance to send the No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova crashing out of the tournament.
Sharapova had looked imperious in marching into the semi-finals, dropping just nine games in the process.
Many felt she would not be tested by the former French Open champion, but Li Na has been resurgent since linking up with coach Carlos Rodriguez at the end of last year and she proved it by turning the formbook on its head with a 6-2 6-2 win.
Sharapova failed to find the form that carried her to the last four, coughing up 32 unforced errors in the match. Tellingly, though, the Russian also made 21 forced errors - which highlights the quality of Li's play.
The tone was set early as Li N worked a rapid break of serve - with Sharapova opening the match with two double faults. Sharapova got a break back in the sixth game, but Li kept up the pressure and it forced mistakes from her opponent.
Li came into the contest with an 8-4 losing record against Sharapova, but it looked like the other way round as it was the 30-year-old who was the aggressor, repeatedly hitting behind the No. 2 seed and moving her round the court.
Sharapova's first-serve percentage was as high as in previous rounds (65%) but unlike earlier in the tournament, the conversion was also in 60s - as opposed to the 80s. That lack of free points was telling as Li was able to dominate the play from the baseline.
Sharapova failed to find a response after dropping the first set it allowed Li Na to secure her place in her third grand slam final - the first being in Melbourne in 2011.
The telling moment in the second set came in the fifth game when Li Na secured a break and she did not drop another game - serving out the match and converting on her second match point.