Li Na storms past Sharapova in Paris
Li Na secured her place in her second grand slam final on the spin with a 6-4 7-5 win over Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals of the French Open.
Chinese star Li has made assured progress through a draw that has seen a host of star names fall by the wayside. The draw had opened up to raise the prospect of Sharapova securing a career grand slam, but she fell at same stage as she did in 2007.
It was set up as a clash of the power of Sharapova against the court craft of Li and the Chinese No. 6 seed produced the better all-round play to progress.
Li adapted to the blustery conditions the quicker and some crisp hitting earned her a couple of break points in the second game and it was secured when Sharapova fired a forehand over the baseline.
For all Sharapova's power, she found it tough to combat the howling wind and Li was able to fend off a couple of break points. Sharapova had a mid-court ball to attack in the third game but she got in a real tangle when the ball held up in the wind.
Sharapova did get on the board in the fourth, holding thanks to some crisp serving. Breaks of serve were traded in the middle of the set and Sharapova got back into the set with a break in the ninth game. However, she passed up the opening as Li fashioned break points. The Chinese is one of the most fluent movers in the women's game and her scrambling skills earned her the set. She reached a couple of balls that most players would not have got to and forcing her opponent to hit one more ball paid off as Sharapova crashed a forehand into the top of the net and the ball flew off the tape and wide of the sideline.
The run of consecutive breaks was stretched to five at the start of the second set, as a double fault from Li - her first of the match - helped Sharapova break.
Sharapova snapped the run of breaks with a love service hold but Li kept herself in the contest and broke to level at 4-4.
Prior to her serious shoulder injury, the serve was Sharapova's Achilles heel and it proved her downfall against Li. A double fault opened the door for Li who earned two match points when the Russian threw a forehand over the baseline and it was somewhat appropriate that a second double fault of the match sealed Li's passage into the final.