Thursday, 24 January 2013

Maria falls to Li in another GS semi final

Li Na defeated Maria Sharapova in the 2011 French Open semi final in straight sets on the way to winning her first Grand Slam title.  That day in Paris Maria had a serving disaster.  Since then Sharapova has played and beaten Li 3 times, all on 2012.  Today was the first time the two had met in a Grand Slam tournament match since Paris.

Sharapova had been in irresistible form all tournament and deserved tournament favouritism with Serna's departure.  Li Na had given the previously unbeaten in 2013 Agnieszka Radwanska a slap down straight sets education in the quarters, announcing herself as one of which to be very wary in the final days of this Aus Open.

Memories of Roland Garros 2011 must have flooded back for Maria as her first five attempts to serve legitimately failed and she was 0-3 with a second serve to come.  A string of unforced errors from both players told a story of nerves, but eventually it was the Sharapova fragility that was exposed at the heaviest cost, and she lost serve.

The scene had been set for the most worrying set of tennis yet encountered this year by Sharapova as she failed to read the weight of shot from Li.  Not only that, the winners that were concocted by Maria and her racquet tended to come in ones rather than the runs that quickly give a player two or three game or break points.

Li was handling the Maria serve fairly well, although her own first serve percentage of around half was appalling and deserved harsher treatment than that which Maria handed out in the first part of the match.  Li Na to no one's great surprise given Maria's demeanour and form today broke for the second time to lead 4-1, and only a set back of her own when trying for a consolidation of the break gave us any cause to wonder about the set going anywhere but China.

Li Na appeared to enter the match without a meal the way she was feasting on the Sharpova second serve.  That, along with other court management skills including error minimisation on a very hot day, served her well in her quest to take this match on her own personal journey.

Sharapova was all but finished in the first set when she was broken for the third time to trail 2-5, and no matter how hard she tried to deny Li Na the serve was safe and the set was the 6th seed's 6-2.

Now we awaited the Russian response.

In the second game of Set 2 Sharapova had her chance to be back in the match but could not take advantage of either of the two break points afforded her.  Such was Li Na's attention to detail, only one more would become available for the rest of the match.

In the fifth and seventh games it was clear that no one could solve the problem that was Maria's.  She lost serve on both occasions and lethargy looked to be her only companion.

Li Na won this match 6-2 6-2.  Knocking over the top seeds can also keep the bookies happy, and today's result will leave a number of them sleeping well.

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