Li shines on way to win over Peng
Updated: 2013-01-05 08:38
By Sun Xiaochen in Shenzhen, Guangdong province (China Daily)
Home crowd favorite Li Na signs for local fans after winning her semifinal match against compatriot Peng Shuai during the WTA Shenzhen Open on Friday. Li will face Klara Zakopalova from the Czech Republic in Saturday's final. Wu Jun for China Daily
Preparations for year's first Grand Slam on course for Chinese star
The highly-anticipated all-China showdown between the country's No 1 player, Li Na, and No 2 Peng Shuai provided a great opportunity for Li to improve her mental toughness ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year - the Australian Open.
Leading their rivalry with a 4-1 record, Li entered the packed center court at the Shenzhen Gemdale Open with most fans expecting her to win on a windy Friday afternoon.
The world No 7 did not disappoint with a 6-4, 6-0 victory, but she made her fans sweat early by going down 1-3 in the first set due to a series of unforced errors.
Still, she regained her tempo and rallied back and closed out the ultimately lopsided battle in 74 minutes.
"I never expected it to be easy today. I knew it would be a tough match - just like when we played at the China Open last year," said Li, who outplayed Peng in a much closer three-set battle in the third round of the China Open last October.
Li said her victory over a well-known opponent was a testament to her mental toughness.
"It's always different playing against a player from your own country because you know each other and have no secrets. We used to practice together and she knows my moves and shots very well.
"I thought if I dealt with it well I would be more confident and composed to face opponents from other countries," Li said at the post-match media conference.
Making the final of the WTA international-level event has secured Li 200 ranking points and she is projected to move up to world No 6 next Monday, when the next WTA rankings are released.
Li, who will play in Sydney next week as a final tune-up for the Australian Open, is satisfied, so far, with her form in Shenzhen.
"I am happy that my technical adjustments in the offseason have worked well in real games here. My coaching crew has also noticed some things that I can improve on. So it's been a good test for me before Melbourne."
Czech player Klara Zakopalova stunned Romanian world No 58 Monica Niculescu, 6-1, 6-3, and will meet Li in the final, which will begin at 2 pm on Saturday.
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