Victoria Azarenka struggled with a back injury through the duration of her match against Li Na. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL — Li Na beat an injured Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-1 on Friday to reach the semifinals of the WTA Championships for the first time.
Li’s victory, her third without a loss in round-robin play, means that Jelena Jankovic will move into Saturday’s semifinals as the second qualifier from the White Group. Li will face Petra Kvitova, who earned her spot with a 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3 win over Angelique Kerber. Jankovic will meet Serena Williams, who didn’t lose a set in three round-robin matches.
Most of the discussion during and after Li’s win centered on Azarenka’s decision to play through a back injury that left her in tears and unable to serve or run for balls. Serving at 2-3, 0-30, she let out a scream upon landing after a serve. Azarenka said she felt her back lock up.
“I don’t know what really happened,” she said. “Just bad movement and really just everything moved, big spasm. No flexibility.”