China’s Li Na thrashed Russian champion Maria Sharapova in a convincing straight sets victory in Melbourne, putting the Chinese contender through to the final. Li dominated the match, storming through to win 6-2 6-2.
The 30-year-old tennis veteran Li Na will now face off against Belarusian Victoria Azarenka. The defending champion defeated 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens in the other semi, 6-1 6-4.
Sharapova made a shaky start to the match, serving up a double fault on the first point. Li Na then left the Russian in the dust, breaking Sharapova’s serve for the first time in the tournament and taking the first set 6-2.
In spite of Sharapova’s attempts to secure a hold in the second set, an unrelenting display of tennis from the Chinese number six seed left the Russian powerless to respond.
Li Na made short work of the Russian, closing the match in one hour and 33 minutes.
“I think she (Na Li) played a really great match,” Sharapova told the Australian Open’s official website. “She was certainly much more aggressive than I was, dictating the play. I was always on the defense.”
“When I had my opportunities and break points in games that went to deuce, I don't think any of them really went my way today,” she added.
Prior to the match Sharapova had blazed a trail through the tournament, relinquishing just nine games on her road to the semi-finals. However, in less than a set Sharapova had lost the same number of games as in all of her previous matches combined.
The pair have met previously on 12 occasions, with Sharapova holding an 8-4 win-loss record.
On the men’s side of the draw, defending champion, Novak Djokovic, has become the first Australian Open finalist.
The dominant Serb gave away just five games to David Ferrer of Spain to collect a 6-2 6-2 6-1 win.
Swiss Roger Federer and Andy Murray of Great Britain will battle in out for the second spot in the Melbourne decider.