MELBOURNE, Australia – While you were sleeping, here’s what you missed on Day 11 of the Australian Open.
Li Na on the verge of her second major title: During the last two weeks, Li has repeatedly said she hopes to do one better here in Melbourne, where she has twice been a set away from the Australian Open title and fallen — sometimes literally — short. Once again she’s one win away after a clean 6-2, 6-4 win over Eugenie Bouchard in the semifinals. There is a serendipity that seems to surround her run to the final this time, after she came within inches of being sent home in her third-round match against Lucie Safarova, who held match point on which she barely missed a backhand winner. Since then, Li has played her best tennis of the tournament.
“I was really feeling after the match I was getting a second life in this tournament,” a smiling Li said after her semifinal win. “In China, we say if you have a tough time, you pass that, it means you are so lucky. Or maybe they give me back [the luck] from last year, I don’t know.”
Li will be the solid favorite against surprise finalist Dominika Cibulkova, her seventh consecutive opponent ranked outside the top 20. Given her bad-luck draws at the Slams over the last year, I can’t stop shaking the feeling that Li is due for her second major title.
Stanislas Wawrinka backs up his upset: The No. 8 followed up his statement win over Novak Djokovic by beating No. 7 Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4). Not even the 5,000 questions in his post-match press conference about that other Swiss guy, Roger Federer, could wipe the smile off his face. The 28-year-old Wawrinka is into his first Grand Slam final and will reach a career-high ranking on Monday regardless of what happens on Sunday.
Wawrinka laughed when asked whether he preferred to face Federer or Rafael Nadal in the final. “If they can pull out,” Wawrinka said, “that would be good.”
Dominika Cibulkova zones all the way to her first Slam final: And playing the role of Marion Bartoli this year is … her best friend. Cibulkova continued her dominant run of form with a 6-1, 6-2 shellacking of No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, who admitted that all her tough matches caught up to her and she was feeling heavy-legged. However, that shouldn’t take anything away from Cibulkova, who played perfect, aggressive tennis to pound her way into her first major final.
Another disappointment for Agnieszka Radwanska: Last year, she looked primed to win Wimbledon but lost to Sabine Lisicki in the semifinals. She seemed to have just as good a shot to win her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne this year but couldn’t recover from her three-set win over Victoria Azarenka 24 hours earlier. An extra day of rest may have shifted things back to her advantage, but that’s the luck of the draw sometimes.
Highlights from Wawrinka’s victory over Berdych.
Photo of the day
Quote of the day
“In China, we say if you have a tough time, you pass that, it means you be so lucky. Or maybe they give me back [the luck] from last year, I don’t know.”
– Li Na, on making the final after saving a match point against Lucie Safarova in the third round. Last year, Li fell down twice in the final en route to a loss to Victoria Azarenka.
Tweets of the day
Ho hum, yet another Grand Slam with that Swiss guy in the final…
— Tom Perrotta (@TomPerrotta) January 23, 2014
We take for granted the emotions of reaching a Major Final cos the “Big 4″ are there so often. But nice to see the emotion from SW tonight!
— Rob Koenig (@RobKoenigTennis) January 23, 2014
Teaching my little man to be like Stan!! :-))) pic.twitter.com/kMx4kSo2rc
— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) January 23, 2014
Li Na winning the title Saturday = Hall of Fame credentials = potentially legendary enshrinement speech
— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) January 23, 2014
THEY ARE ALREADY DOWN AT THE TENNIS COURT THO. #lordespn
— Victoria Chiesa (@vrcsports) January 23, 2014