Li Na to Play Maria Sharapova in Aussie Semifinal

Li Na’s third Australian Open semifinal in four years will be against Maria Sharapova who breezed past Ekaterina Makarova Tuesday.

Li had ended the 13-match winning streak of fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska earlier Tuesday at Melbourne Park’s Rod Laver Arena with a straight-sets 7-5, 6-3 win.

“She’s a tough player,” Li said of the Polish tactician known for her intelligent use of the court in constructing points. “I was feeling today against a wall. 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.”

“Some of the games she didn’t let me do anything,” Radwanska said of Li’s play. “Very deep balls all the time. Good serve. She was really playing good tennis today.”

The loss to Li was Radwanska’s first of the year. Currently ranked 4th in the world, she had come to Melbourne after winning consecutive titles in Auckland and Sydney where she had beaten Li in the semifinals. But Radwanska has struggled in Grand Slam quarterfinals. In seven tries she advanced only once, at last year’s Wimbledon where she lost in the final to Serena Williams.

Li, ranked no. 6 in the WTA, reached the final of last Australian Open where she lost to Kim Clijsters. Four months later she won the French Open, becoming the first Asian woman to win a major, and only the second Asian player to do so after Michael Chang who won the French in 1989.

In this year’s semifinal Li will face Maria Sharapova who beat Makarova 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinal. Sharapova set an Australian Open record this year by losing only nine games in the first five rounds.

Since January 2004 the Russian holds a 9-4 edge over Li in head-to-head matchups, and has won all of their last four meetings.