MELBOURNE // Li Na became the first Chinese player to reach a grand slam singles final, recovering from a set and a break down and saving a match point before beating the No 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the Australian Open semi-finals.
Wozniacki, playing at a major for the first time with the top ranking, had match point at 5-4 and 40-30 in the second set before Li rallied.
Li was a picture of torment in the early part of the match, bleating at her coach-husband Shan Jiang in the stands as her baseline rockets cannoned into the net or sailed over the lines.
But the Chinese player saved her best tennis for when she really needed it, saving the match point and caressing a sharp volley to break back to 5-5.
With red-clad Chinese fans screaming "Jia you!" (come on), Li sealed the set when Wozniacki crumbled with a double-fault, sending her husband scurrying for a convenience break.
Both players struggled to hold serve in a final set of unrelenting tension, but Li captured the decisive break at 4-3 when Wozniacki netted a shot after a ferocious baseline battle.
Li stood firm when serving for the match, sealing it when Wozniacki clubbed a shot wide to raise China's hopes of a maiden singles grand slam champion.
"I'm so happy I can be the first Chinese player to come to a final — I always do the first one!" she said in a lighthearted interview after the match in which she joked about losing sleep on the eve of the match because her coach-husband Shan Jiang was snoring.
Asked what motivated her comeback, she deadpanned: "Prize money."
Li, who lost to Serena Williams in two tie-break sets in the semi-finals here last year, will meet either Kim Clijsters or the No 2 seed Vera Zvonareva in the final.