By Jaclyn Stacey
(January 22, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Li Na became the first player through to the Australian Open semifinals on Tuesday at Melbourne Park after she overcame fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-3.
The first set was a grueling 66 minute encounter in which the women exchanged seven breaks of serve between them. Li claimed the seventh break on set point to lead the encounter 7-5.
Li immediately went down a break in the second and Radwanska consolidated with a love game to lead 2-0. She fought back however, winning the next 5 games to lead 5-2 and closed out the match 7-5 6-3.
Prior to the match Radwanska had won 13 straight matches to start her 2013 season, including a straight sets win over Li in the semifinals of Sydney. Losing the first set of her quarterfinal seemed to rattle Radwanska and she was unable to stay in the first in the second set.
With the win Li returns to the top five in the WTA rankings. Her highest ranking has been a number four.
Li said it was a difficult match against a difficult opponent.
“You know, she’s a tough player. I was feeling today against a wall, you know. She can hit everywhere, but without a mistake. I was feeling just very tough. You have to focus on every shot. Not every point, every shot. If you hit like slow or like short one, she’ll attack.”
Li spoke about her tough off season training schedule with Justine Henin’s former coach Carlos Rodriguez who she has been working with since after Wimbledon last year.
“I was with Carlos for two and a half or three weeks in Beijing. Totally different program, you know.”
“He was not – how you say – like every day five, six hours, but not only for tennis. Tennis like maybe two, three hours, but fitness for two, three hours as well.”
“So, like, when first time I was training with him I was so exciting, but after three days I was dying. Yeah, because my husband didn’t come with me in Beijing. I call him and say, Carlos is crazy. He was like, Why? I was say the program to him. He was like, Don’t make the joke. I say, Hey, listen, I’m not joke. I really doing this in the morning.”
On a potential semifinal clash with Maria Sharapova on Thursday Li said “She’s more aggressive player on the court. Also she’s tough. She’s fighting a lot. Should be tough match. So we can see Thursday, yeah.”
Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.