Clijsters beats Zvonareva, to meet Li Na in final

Updated: 2011-01-27 17:23


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Clijsters beats Zvonareva, to meet Li Na in final

Vera Zvonareva (L) of Russia congratulates Kim Clijsters of Belgium after their semi-final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne Jan 27, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

MELBOURNE - Kim Clijsters advanced to the Australian Open final with a comfortable win over Vera Zvonareva and will play for the title against Li Na, who saved a match point en route to becoming the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam championship final.

Li rallied to win the first of the women's semifinals 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 Thursday after top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki served for the match with a 5-4 lead in the second set.

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US Open champion Clijsters, the only major winner among the four semifinalists, dictated play from the start against No 2-ranked Zvonareva and won it 6-3, 6-3 - repeating the result of their US Open final.

Zvonareva had reached the previous two finals at the majors. And she had two break points in the eighth game of the second set but squandered both and Clijsters won four straight points to make it 5-3, then served out for the match.

Clijsters was the only Grand Slam winner to qualify for the semifinals.

The 27-year-old Belgian is back into the Australian Open final for the first time since her loss to Justine Henin in 2004. She has won the US Open three times - including both since she returned from retirement in 2009 - but is yet to win a major outside American soil.

She attributed her recent success to her ability to "rise on the occasion," she said.

"I've been on tour a while and played big matches. I think that definitely helps me now that I'm a little older."

Li is into her first major final, but is growing in confidence after coming off a comeback win over the No. 1-ranked player and her victory over Clijsters in the final of the tuneup event at Sydney, where she came back from 5-0 down in the first set to win it in straight sets.

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