Li Na edges Sharapova to make Aussie final
BY JOHN PYE Associated Press
Thursday, January 24, 2013
1/24/13 at 7:03 AM
MELBOURNE, Australia - Li Na used the heat to her advantage and worked No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova around Rod Laver Arena in a 6-2, 6-2 win on Thursday that put her in the Australian Open final for the second time in three years.
Sharapova was the heavy favorite after conceding only nine games in her first five matches, but the semifinal started badly for the 25-year-old Russian, serving double-faults to lose the first two points and conceding a break in the first game.
Li will now play the winner of Thursday's later semifinal between top-ranked Victoria Azarenka, the defending champion, and 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens.
The 29th-seeded Stephens produced the upset of the tournament to advance to a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time, beating Serena Williams on Wednesday.
Stephens won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, starting to swing hard when she was down a set and a break and keeping her composure when Williams, one of her childhood heroes, jarred her back and needed a medical timeout.
Stephen's surprise win did instant wonders for her celebrity.
Before the match, Stephens said she had about 17,000 followers on Twitter. A few hours after reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal, she had more than 40,000.
And she sounded like an excited schoolgirl as she gushed about receiving a congratulatory tweet from American singer John Legend.
"I want John Legend to sing at my wedding!" she said. "I was like, 'Oh my God. He tweeted me. What can I do?'"
While there were surprises in the composition of the women's last four, the makeup of the men's semifinals was as expected.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic will continue his bid for a third consecutive Australian title when he takes on No. 4 David Ferrer on Thursday. No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 3 Andy Murray will meet Friday.
Djokovic had to get through a five-hour five-setter against No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round. Ferrer had trouble in his quarterfinal against fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who served for the match in the third and fourth sets before losing in five.
China's Li Na hits a return to Russia's Maria Sharapova during their semifinal match at the Australian Open on Thursday in Melbourne, Australia. ANDY WONG/Associated Press