Paris, June 2 : First on the hard courts and now on clay, Li Na has turned into a key player to beat at Grand Slam tournaments.
The sixth-seeded Li, who became the first Chinese player to reach a major final at the Australian Open, is one win away from her second after beating Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 7-5, 6-2 Wednesday in the French Open quarterfinals.
"After I win the match I was feeling, 'Wow! I can play semi in Roland Garros,"' Li said. "I never think about that before. So many people think I'm not so good in clay court, but I think now they should change a little bit."
Besides surprising many tennis fans by just reaching the final in Melbourne, the 29-year-old Li also charmed the socks off them. Even after losing to Kim Clijsters in the final, she was able to keep the jokes coming.
Unfortunately, the wins were tougher to come by.
Li lost her opening matches at the four tournaments following the Australian Open. But she rebounded once the tour turned to clay, reaching the semifinals in Madrid and Rome, and now Paris.
"After the team (said) ... 'Yeah, you can play clay court,"' Li said. "I was like, 'Oh, really?'"I know I win many matches in the clay court, but I still didn't believe I can play clay court."
Against Azarenka, who had been the highest seeded player remaining in the tournament, Li committed 18 unforced errors, five less than her opponent. She also converted five of her 11 break points while saving three of the five she faced.
"She was a better player today," said Azarenka, who is 0-4 in Grand Slam quarterfinals. "She played very well in the important moments."To reach the final, Li will have to beat Maria Sharapova on Thursday. The seventh-seeded Russian advanced by defeating Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-0, 6-3.In that match, Li may be playing for more than just herself.
"(On) clay court for all Asia people (who are) not so doing well because you have to slide a lot. Also you have to play a lot of topspin," Li said. "But after this time I think all Asia people have more confident play in clay court." AP