Li Na has one foot in WTA Championships semi-finals
China's top tennis player overcomes mid-match hiccups against Jelena Jankovic to come within touching distance of reaching the last four at tennis season's finale for first time
Li Na clinched her second win at the season-ending WTA Championships on Thursday, a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Jelena Jankovic putting her on the verge of the semi-finals.
Li is already the first singles player from China to have won a grand slam title and the first to have reached the world’s top five. Now she is within touching distance of becoming the first to qualify for the semi-finals in the tour’s flagship tournament.
It was an excitingly unpredictable contest, with Li having three points for a 4-2 second-set lead, before losing five games in a row and a great deal of momentum. She then also let slip a break of serve at 3-1 in the final set to be pegged back to 3-3.
However, she was often the more forceful player off the ground, and her success now means that if other results go right Li may qualify irrespective of the outcome of her last group match on Friday. That will be a repeat of the Australian Open final against Victoria Azarenka.
Li leads the standings but she, Azarenka and Jankovic could all end up with two wins apiece.
“Matches are always tough with Jelena because she is a very different player. Today I was running a lot, forward and backward on the court,” Li said.
“Now it is one foot in the semis but another foot still out of the door so I have to see how it goes tomorrow.
“I play Vika now. She’s always a tough opponent. But right now I have nothing to lose, so I’m just going to play and enjoy the time.”
Meanwhile, Serena Williams reached the semi-finals by brushing aside 2011 winner Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-3 to complete a clean sweep of her group matches.
The defending champion was relentlessly focused against the former champion from the Czech Republic, hitting 27 winners and 11 immaculately delivered aces, taking her total for the season to a remarkable 468.
“I feel pretty good – I was really aggressive tonight,” Williams said. “Petra was aggressive too, but I think my serve did really well. I’m just glad to still be alive in the tournament – I didn’t have any expectations coming here, I just wanted to come and enjoy myself, and that’s what I’ve done. It just feels good to not be out of the tournament.”