Li beats Sharapova, advances to Australian final

Li beats Sharapova, advances to Australian final
January 23, 2013, 11:43 pm
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Russia's Maria Sharapova hits a forehand return to compatriot Ekaterina Makarova during their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(APWF)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Li Na used the heat to her advantage and worked No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova around Rod Laver Arena in a 6-2, 6-2 win on Thursday that put her in the Australian Open final for the second time in three years.

Sharapova was the heavy favorite after conceding only nine games in her first five matches, a record at the Australian Open since it expanded to a 128-player draw in 1988.

But the semifinal started badly for the 25-year-old Russian, serving double-faults to lose the first two points and conceding a break in the first game.

Li had the backing of the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, where dozens of red and white Chinese flags swirled in a light breeze, and where the temperature topped 93 degree during the first of the semifinals.