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No. 1 Serena Williams blows past No. 2 Li Na to win her seventh Sony Open title

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Serena Williams jumps for joy after clinching the title at the Sony Open. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Serena Williams jumps for joy after clinching the title at the Sony Open. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

No. 1 Serena Williams rallied from a lethargic start to defeat No. 2 Li Na 7-5, 6-1 on Saturday for her record seventh Sony Open title.

After trailing 2-5 in the first set, Williams reeled off 11 of the final 12 games to win her 59th career title and second of the season. She joined Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert as the only players to win a tournament seven times.

Li served for the first set twice after opening a double-break lead. Her game didn’t waver, but Williams simply lifted her performance just in time to run away with the match, the first between them this season.

“She started out so well,” Williams said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, if I can just hang in there.’ Then I heard some fans trying to pull me through…. At that moment, I felt like I had nothing to lose. I was able to relax. And whenever I relax, I enjoy myself.”

It was a positive four weeks in North America for Li, who made the semifinals in Indian Wells and her first Premier Mandatory final in Miami, but the gap in power and consistency between the WTA’s No. 1 and No. 2 showed on Saturday. Williams improved to 11-1 against Li and extended her winning streak against top-10 players to 15 matches.

Game-by-game analysis below.

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  • Published On Mar 29, 2014
  • A Fan’s View: Li Na

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    Li Na

    Li Na has nine career titles, including the 2011 French Open and 2014 Australian Open. (Stanley Chou/Getty Images)

    Li Na may be one of tennis’ most beloved characters, but her fans certainly need to learn to manage stress and have patience. Her game is volatile (as is her temper), and her streaks of exemplary play and absolute disaster can give you whiplash. What has it been like to sit shotgun on the Li bandwagon all these years? I caught up with Chris Ng, one of the most devoted fans of the two-time Grand Slam champion I know, to discuss his love for all things Li. Chris, a Canada-based fan, grew up learning that single-handed is the only way to hit a backhand, and you can find him playing on the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) tour. Follow Chris on Twitter at @Ratazana

    SI.com: What is it about Li that makes you a fan?

    Ng: I grew up learning to play tennis in Hong Kong during the Michael Chang era, so Li was an obvious choice for an Asian fan. I first noticed her after the wave of Chinese players breaking through around the time of the 2006 Australian Open doubles win by Yan Zi and Zheng Jie. Out of Zheng, Peng Shua and Li, Li’s aggressive baseline game was more appealing to me based on my own game.

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  • Published On Mar 20, 2014
  • Sony Open draw winners and losers

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    This year's Sony Open draw sets up favorably for Serena Williams to defend her title.

    This year’s Sony Open draw sets up favorably for Serena Williams to defend her title. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

    Serena Williams and Andy Murray are both defending champions at this week’s Sony Open in Miami. Only one drew a favorable course to repeat.

    While Williams will likely have two matches to round into form and faces an accommodating half of the bracket en route to the final, Murray will possibly have to go through Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to defend his title.

    Despite Murray’s tough road, the Sony Open men’s draw is, on the whole, more balanced than that of Indian Wells, which is good for later-round matchups but could offer some snoozers early in the tournament. As for the women, there are definitely some problematic sections in the draw, with a number of quality players clashing early.

    Here’s a look at the draw winners and losers (qualifiers will be placed on Tuesday):

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  • Published On Mar 17, 2014
  • Flavia Pennetta stuns Li Na, will face Aga Radwanska in Indian Wells final

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    Flavia Pennetta

    Flavia Pennetta is into her first Premier Mandatory final. ( Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

    INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — No. 21 Flavia Pennetta won the battle of the veterans at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday night, upsetting top seed Li Na 7-6 (5), 6-3 to advance to her first WTA Premier Mandatory final.

    The 32-year-old Italian will face No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska in Sunday’s final. Radwanska beat Simona Halep 6-3, 6-4 in a highly entertaining match.

    Pennetta’s win over Li reads ugly on the stat sheet. Li hit nine double faults and 52 unforced errors, and the two combined for 11 service breaks. Early in the match, Li told her husband to leave the stadium after the two had a disagreement during her warm-up; she needed to usher him away to focus.

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  • Published On Mar 15, 2014
  • In ‘ridiculous’ last game, Li Na needs 11 match points to advance at Indian Wells

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    Li Na

    Li Na struggled to close out her fourth-round victory at Indian Wells. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

    INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Top-seeded Li Na needed 11 match points in her final service game to defeat Canada’s Alexandra Wozniak 6-1, 6-4 on Tuesday night in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open. The marathon game took up more than 20 minutes of a one-hour, 32-minute match.

    “The funny thing is at the beginning of the game I was feeling tight, nervous, and then I was feeling like, What’s going on? Why can’t I finish the match?” Li said. “But she never gave up. She tried to defend every point. It’s a little bit ridiculous in the last game.”

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  • Published On Mar 12, 2014
  • Li Na settling into her new role as the top seed at Indian Wells

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    Li Na was her usual quotable self when she spoke with reporters ahead of BNP Paribas Open. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

    Li Na was her usual quotable self when she spoke with reporters ahead of BNP Paribas Open. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

    INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — No. 2 Li Na may be suffering from jet lag, but her famous sense of humor was still firing on Wednesday when she was asked to compare her life after winning the Australian Open to when she won her first major, the 2011 French Open.

    “Not much different,” she said during her pre-tournament roundtable interview at the BNP Paribas Open. “I signed a lot of autographs. But not contracts, OK? So looking forward to signing a lot of contracts.”

    Li smiled her wide grin and the room erupted in laughter. It’s good to see she hasn’t changed much since January — she’s still the best quote in tennis.

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  • Published On Mar 05, 2014
  • Li Na offers candid, revealing look at historic career in autobiography

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    Li Na

    Li Na is poised to rise to a career-high No. 2 in the WTA rankings. (Fiona Hamilton-Pool/Getty Images)

    By now, the short version of Li Na’s story is well known. She is the most decorated Asian tennis player of all time, winning the 2011 French Open and 2014 Australian Open. On Monday, less than two weeks shy of her 32nd birthday, she will rise to a career-high No. 2 in the WTA rankings. Since her breakout run to the 2011 Australian Open final, she’s made us laugh with her wicked sense of humor and single-handedly changed the landscape of women’s tennis.

    But the depth of her story has remained less clear with non-Chinese speakers. Though Li’s improved English allows her to communicate basic ideas, the nuance gets lost in interviews and it can be a struggle to get her to discuss more complex issues. Her autobiography, the title of which translated to “Playing Myself,” was published in China in 2012, but unless you understood Chinese or broke the wrapper on that dusty copy of Rosetta Stone under your desk, you couldn’t read it. The book was finally released in English in December and it is, as expected, a fascinating look into Li’s mind — the stubborn, independent psyche that both propelled her to historic accomplishments and threatened to undermine it all. Retitled Li Na: My Life, the book is available for Kindle on Amazon.com.

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  • Published On Feb 11, 2014
  • Li Na hungry for more after finally winning Australian Open

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    Li Na

    Li Na struggled with her forehand early in the final, but she settled down to beat Dominika Cibulkova. (Mal Fairclough/AFP/Getty Images)

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Tough. That’s the word Li Na used to describe her Australian Open, where she won her second Grand Slam title.

    It was a surprising word choice, given her good luck at the first major tournament of the year. Ana Ivanovic’s upset of No. 1 Serena Williams paved the way to the final for Li, who had been in line to face Williams in the semifinals. The upsets of two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka and No. 3 Maria Sharapova on the other side of the draw didn’t hurt, either. Then there was a third-round escape against Lucie Safarova, who came within “five centimeters” of sending Li home. All told, the fourth-seeded Li didn’t have to beat a top-20 player in order to become the first Asian player to win the Australian Open.

    WERTHEIM: The significance of Li’s title

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  • Published On Jan 27, 2014
  • WTA rankings: Li Na closes in on No. 2 after Australian Open title

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    Li Na

    Li Na trails No. 2 Victoria Azarenka by only 11 points. (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

    Li Na is closing in on the WTA Tour’s No. 2 ranking after winning the Australian Open.

    The two-time major champion moved up one spot this week, to a career-high-tying No. 3, and she trails second-ranked Victoria Azarenka by only 11 points. Serena Williams remains comfortably in the No. 1 position.

    ATP rankings: Federer falls to No. 8

    In other rankings news:

    • Maria Sharapova slipped from No. 3 to No. 5 after a fourth-round loss. Agnieszka Radwanska is now sandwiched between Li and Sharapova at No. 4.

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  • Published On Jan 27, 2014
  • Photos: Li Na’s Australian Open trophy shoot photobombed by beach-goers

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    Li Na poses with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning the Australia Open. (Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Want to party like a Grand Slam champion? Be prepared for your 9:30 a.m. photo call. A little more than 12 hours after she became the first Asian player to win the Australian Open, China’s Li Na was barefoot on the beach in Brighton for her champion’s photoshoot with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

    And she was joined by a little friend who happened to be out for her own morning swim:

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  • Published On Jan 26, 2014


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