Li Na reached her second successive Grand Slam final in her quest to become the first Chinese woman to win a major after a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Maria Sharapova on the red clay of Roland Garros.
The 29-year-old lost the Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters back in January but will now have a second crack at lifting her maiden Slam having halted the Russian’s hopes at the semi-final stage, after she had also fallen at that stage against Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in 2007.
Na raced in to a 3-0 lead in the first set and broke the 24-year-old Sharapova three times in total as she struggled at times with the blustery conditions. Her erratic performance was summed up by also taking two games off Na’s serve along the way.
The seventh seed repeatedly tried to overpower Na from the baseline but her unwillingness, or inability, to move around played right in to the industrious Na’s hands.
Sharapova looked to be back in the match when she broke Na early in the second after the sixth seed double faulted. However the favour was returned and she broke back when Sharapova committed the same mistake to make it 4-4.
With the three-time Slam winner then serving to stay in the match she double faulted again, allowing Na to set up a final against either the defending Champion Francesca Schiavone or home favourite Marion Bartoli, who are currently battling it out on Court Philippe Chatrier.
The Chinese sports minister is set to fly to Paris for the final hoping to witness history and he will join a continually growing number of Chinese fans in the stadium cheering on their heroine wearing the red and yellow of their nation’s flag.
“She had a huge big serve so I thought please double fault so I can win the match,” Na said of that final game afterwards. “I never believed myself that I could be in the French Open final; I wish I can do even better in Saturday’s final. It was a tough match.”
The defeat once again ended Sharapova’s hopes of finally securing a Career Grand Slam having won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open once each.