Li Na books semi-final spot with win over Dominika Cibulkova
World No 2 reprises her triumph over Slovakian at Australian Open and will face Italy's Flavia Pennetta
Australian Open champion Li Na booked her semi-final berth at the Indian Wells hardcourt tennis tournament with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over Dominika Cibulkova.
China’s Li, the world No 2, who is the top seed in the event, reprised her triumph over Slovakia’s Cibulkova in the final in Melbourne, although she laboured somewhat, taking two hours and 36 minutes to do it.
Li was firmly in control in the opening set, breaking Cibulkova to start the match. She dropped her own serve in the next game, but immediately broke the Slovakian again, and fended off two break points in the fourth game to stretch her advantage.
Li couldn’t convert break chances in the fifth, but pocketed the set with a break in the ninth game, sealing it with a forehand cross court winner. But Cibulkova turned the tables in the second set as Li’s error count crept up, breaking the Chinese in the third and fifth games and holding for a 5-1 lead.
Li won the next three games, but couldn’t hold off Cibulkova any longer as the Slovakian held to force a third set. After an exchange of breaks in the first two games, Li gained the decisive break in the eighth.
Both players struggled with their serves at times on the sunny stadium court, each coughing up eight double faults and facing double-digit break points.
Li will face veteran Flavia Pennetta in the semi-finals, after the Italian held off American Sloane Stephens 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. The other women’s semi-final between is between Agnieszka Radwanska and Romanian Simona Halep.
In the men’s quarterfinals, Alexandr Dolgopolov beat Milos Raonic 6-3, 6-4, ensuring the Ukrainian will rise to a projected No. 23 in next week’s ATP Tour rankings. Already, he has made the biggest jump in the top 50, moving up 26 spots since the end of last year to No 31 before this tournament began.
“Obviously if you’re ranked 20, 30, 40 you’re a good enough player. To get in the top 10 you just need all those small things to be together and to be solid,” he said. “It’s really small differences from the players that are top 10 and top 50. I don’t think I changed a lot and it’s working good; I’m staying healthy; I’m doing all the things I did but a little bit better.”