Impressive Li sweeps into Australian Open semis
Li Na pictured during her Australian Open match against Flavia Pennetta in Melbourne on January 21, 2014 - by William West
As Tomas Berdych finally ended his Rod Laver Arena jinx with a four-sets win over David Ferrer, Li looked odds-on to reach a third Melbourne final after tearing past fellow veteran Pennetta.
The Chinese world number four pummelled winners past the Italian as she broke five times and won 62 points to just 37 for her opponent in the 6-2, 6-2 victory.
Li, seeking her second Grand Slam title, is peaking at the right time, with the 67-minute mauling coming after she smashed past Ekaterina Makarova in less than an hour on Sunday.
It followed a verbal volley by coach Carlos Rodriguez after her struggles in the third round, when she was taken to three sets and saved a match point against Lucie Safarova.
"After I saved match point (against Safarova) I have got better, I got a lot of confidence from that and I believed in myself," said the 2011 French Open champion.
"I feel good, I always play well here and I hope I can take one more step this year."
Li, 31, will be hot favourite to reach Saturday's final although she faces a new challenge from 19-year-old Bouchard, who announced herself on the world stage by stunning Ana Ivanovic.
Despite a gulf in experience and rankings, the Canadian world number 31, aggressively took the fight to former world number one Ivanovic, now ranked 14th.
Even after going a set down, she kept the pressure on the injury-affected 2008 French Open champion and won 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the Australian semi-final at her first attempt.
It was the biggest win of her career -- but the super-cool blonde, whose looks and poise will have sponsors queuing for her signature, took it all in her stride.
"It's something I've been doing since I was five years old and working my whole life for and sacrificing a lot of things for," she shrugged.
"So it's not exactly a surprise. I always expect myself to do well. I'm just happy to have gone through this step. I'm not done. I have a match on Thursday. I'm just looking forward to that."
Bouchard's instant success in Melbourne contrasts with Berdych, who finally reached the last four at his 11th attempt, and celebrated his first-ever win at Rod Laver Arena, the centre court.
The 28-year-old seventh seed was never headed against Ferrer but he had to fight hard to prevent a comeback by the tenacious world number three, winning 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in just over three hours.
"It is always an extremely tough and physical match with David and after losing the third set I was not playing my best and it was the only set where I was a bit up and down," Berdych said.
"After that I tried to refocus on my game... (after) one very tough game on my serve in the fourth, I then made a break and that proved decisive."
Berdych, who has now reached the semi-final or better at all four Grand Slam tournaments, will next face defending champion Novak Djokovic or Stanislas Wawrinka, who were contesting the night match.
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