Li Na bows out against powerful Azarenka in Madrid
Updated: 2012-05-12 10:08
MADRID - Chinese tennis star Li Na bowed out of the Madrid Open after losing 6-3, 3-6, 3-6 to top seed Victoria Azarenka in a thrilling quarter-final which lasted just five minutes short of two hours.
Li Na of China returns the ball to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during their women's quarter-final singles match at the Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid May 11, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
Azarenka recovered from the loss of the first set to impose her strength against Li, who despite the defeat, was never overwhelmed by her rival and almost completed a brave fightback in the final set.
It promised to be a contrast in styles with Li confident on clay and willing to play from the baseline, while Azarenka has a powerful serve and a game suited to attacking tennis.
The first four games went with serve, with Li looking very confident as she held her second and third service games to love.
That allowed her to pressure Ararenka's serve and she broke the Belarusian in the fifth game, taking the game following a double fault.
Li was content to play a waiting game, but also to hit winning shots from the baseline after she had manoeuvred her rival out of position. The only problems she seemed to suffer was a series of double faults, perhaps due to the lack of stability several players have complained about on the blue clay court.
That didn't affect her, however, as she clinched the first set with another service game, which she held to love, taking the winning points following another long rally where her patience and precision were again vital.
Li immediately took the advantage at the start of the second set, against breaking Azarenka's serve with a perfect mixture of patience and powerful hitting.
She then seemed to lose concentration at a crucial moment and lost her next two serves to give an improving Azarenka the advantage. Li looked suddenly hurried in her shots, although it is also fair to say Azarenka was also finding her best form and she levelled the match winning the set 6-3.
The decisive set started badly for Li as she again missed chances on her serve allowing Azarenka to take a decisive lead and although she had to defend a break point on her serve, the Belarusian was looking increasingly strong as she powered through to a 4-0 lead in the final set.
Li then showed her spirit as she served out to love and her determination as she clawed back a break of serve with some aggressive tennis. She then held her serve and had two further chances to break Azarenka in the eighth game, but was unable to take them.
An over-hit forehand from Li gave Azarenka two match points in the ninth set and the number one seed used her power to take the first of them to proceed into the semifinals.