Azarenka, Li advance to Australian Open final
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Li Na used the heat to her advantage and worked No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova around Rod Laver Arena in a 6-2, 6-2 win on Thursday that put her in the Australian Open final for the second time in three years.
Sharapova was the heavy favorite after conceding only nine games in her first five matches, a record at the Australian Open since it expanded to a 128-player draw in 1988.
But the semifinal started badly for the 25-year-old Russian, serving double-faults to lose the first two points and conceding a break in the first game.
Li had the backing of the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, where dozens of red and white Chinese flags swirled in a light breeze, and where the temperature topped 93 degree during the first of the semifinals.
Azarenka Will Face Li In Final After Ousting Upstart Stephens
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Defending champion Victoria Azarenka has advanced to the Australian Open final with a 6-1, 6-4 win over 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens.
Azarenka wasted five match points in the ninth game of the second set, then took a medical time out for what appeared to be a back or shoulder injury. She had hurt her left ankle earlier in the set. She returned to win the match on her sixth match point, breaking Stephens' serve in the final game.
Azarenka admitted she was nervous at 5-3, and ``I almost did the choke of the year!''
Stephens was an upset winner over 15-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Azarenka will play 2011 French Open champion Li Na in Saturday night's final at Rod Laver Arena. Li earlier Thursday beat Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2.