(March 13, 2014) INDIAN WELLS – In a rematch of the Australian Open final, top seed Li Na defeated Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, while Flavia Pennetta battled past Sloane Stephens 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 and will face off in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open
The match which lasted 2 hours and 36 minutes improved Li’s record to 17-1 on the year. The woman from China lost just her first set during the tournament.
This is Li’s first WTA Premier event where she’s the top seed.
Everything for me is new, top seed, first time on the big tournament,” Li said
“Of course, you know, everyone looking different. Not like before if I come here, maybe like No. 6 or No. 7 seed.
“But I think I am handling very well, so just continue.”
With being the top seed and a two-time major winner Li is feeling special at Indian Wells.
“No, I feel like I’m much friendlier,” she said with a smile. “No, joke.”
“Even like practicing the fans were watching. But I think I find more fans supporting my husband, not for me. Even we are practicing, working out, if he hit a winner, everyone was like so happy.
“It was a pretty tough match today,” said Cibulkova. “I’m just disappointed a little bit that I didn’t win, because I had my chances today.”
“I think the biggest difference that I lost today was because her serve was better than mine.”
Flavia Pennetta had to endure a topsy-turvy two—hour and 26 minute match against Sloane Stephens. The Italian served for the match in both the second and third sets. She had to endure a dust storm with high winds and right herself after losing six straight games from the end of the second set to 0-3 in the third. Then she won six of the last seven games to seal the win on her fifth match point.
“I mean, we didn’t have a lot of fun today,” said the 32-year-old veteran. “We didn’t play our best tennis.
“Maybe in the beginning we play much better, and in the second set one, but the third was a disaster for both of us. I mean, I won. I’m happy because I get through this match, but I don’t have a good feeling right now. I mean, it’s normal. Outside it’s crazy now. It’s coming the wind from nowhere.
“But in the other part I’m really happy because I was down 3‑Love in the third, and I fight until the last point and the match was for me today.”
“I wasn’t playing my best at the beginning,” said Stephens. “It was a bit up and down, but I just tried to battle and stay in there. Second set was playing better and better. Then the wind came, which was pretty unfortunate.
“I just tried to do my best and fight and battle for every point. It was unfortunate that I lost.”
“It was a disaster,” the American said of the third set, agreeing with Pennetta who used those words during her post–match news conference “It wasn’t super fun, super frustrating, but that happens sometimes. You play tennis, so it is what it is.
“It really came out of nowhere. Like I don’t even know what happened. We just started the third set, and all of a sudden it was like ‑‑ it was like a windstorm. I don’t know. It was weird.”
Pennetta said her opponent has a bright future: “I think she’s already ‑‑ she’s 20, but she’s a good player. She have a lot of matches, important matches. She was in the semifinal already in a Grand Slam, so you are already a big champion for me.
“I mean, she’s one of the best players, of course. In the future, I think she will be one of the best, top 10, for sure.
“She has everything: unbelievable forehand; backhand; she improve a lot with the backhand in the last year; she’s powerful.”
“She play more or less like me, but she’s more powerful than me,” Pennetta said of her semifinal opponent Li Na. “I have to be real aggressive tomorrow to try to take the situation, but is not going to be easy.”