x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Li Na dispatches Sharapova to reach French Open final

Li Na is back in a grand slam final, reaching her second straight major championship match by beating Maria Sharapova 6-4, 7-5 in the semi-finals.

Li na roars in celebration at the French Open after reaching her second successive major final at the expense of Maria Sharapova.
Li na roars in celebration at the French Open after reaching her second successive major final at the expense of Maria Sharapova.

PARIS //Li Na is back in a grand slam final, reaching her second straight major championship match by beating Maria Sharapova 6-4, 7-5 today in the French Open semi-finals.

The Australian Open runner-up, who became the first Chinese player to reach a grand slam final this year in Melbourne, was able to chase down nearly everything Sharapova had to offer on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The wind was a factor yet again at Roland Garros, and Sharapova's serve suffered because of it. The Russian No 7 seed had 10 double-faults in the match, including one on match point.

"She has a huge and big serve, so I was like: 'Please, double-fault. That way I can win the match,"' Li said. "I never believe myself I can be in final in French Open. I wish I can do even better on Saturday."

Li finished with 24 winners, twice as many as Sharapova, and saved eight of 11 break points.

In the final, Li will face either the defending French Open champion Francesca Schiavone or the No 11 seed home favourite Marion Bartoli. They play later today.

Sharapova, who had been trying to become only the 10th woman to complete a career slam, was broken early in the first set, and then in her final two service games. In the eighth game, shortly after breaking Li to get back on serve at 4-3, Sharapova had three double-faults.

The Russian jumped ahead in the second set, breaking Li to open. But Sharapova's seventh double-fault gave Li the eighth game, making it 4-4.

After reaching the semi-finals on Wednesday, Li said she was surprised to go that far at the clay court major. She has never won a title on clay, but she reached the semi-finals at French Open warm-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

In the final, she could end up facing another player who's not very fond of clay.

Bartoli had never before reached the quarter-finals at her home grand slam, and her best result in a major was reaching the final at Wimbledon in 2007. But Schiavone, the first Italian woman to win a grand slam singles title, is more suited to the surface and could become the first player over 30 to reach a major final since Mary Pierce at the 2005 US Open.