Wed, Dec 13, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Asian Games: Sania Mirza crushes Li Na to the sound of screaming fans


Indian favorite Sania Mirza stunned Chinese top seed Li Na with a 6-2, 6-2 victory yesterday to secure her place in the Asian Games women's singles tennis final.

Li, the top seed and highest ranked player here at 21 in the world, seemed rattled by the large, cheering Indian crowd and never had a grip on the match.

World number 66 Mirza said she kept expecting Li to come powering back.

"I kept thinking she is 21 in the world so she can definitely come back here at any second. But I just tried to do what I knew I had to do," she said.

Mirza, the fourth seed, broke Li in the first game and again in the fifth before taking a 5-2 lead and serving out for the set.


Mirza broke her again after a marathon, energy-sapping game in the second set for a 2-1 lead as Mirza, sensing victory, picked up the pace.

Li appealed at one stage to her Chinese coach and teammates for help as Mirza, backed by the screaming fans, broke again for 4-1 when Li completely missed a routine forehand. They both held serve, leaving the Indian darling to serve out the match.

Mirza agreed that the crowd had helped her.

"It's amazing. It's the biggest turnout today, more people than ever," she said.

Li had been hot favorite to win this tournament after the 24-year-old made history at Wimbledon earlier this year when she became the first Chinese woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam.

Earlier, South Korea's Lee Hyung-taik brushed aside Cecil Mamiit from the Philippines to reach the men's final and set up a chance for his second gold medal here.


Lee, the top seed and Asian Games 2002 silver medalist, opened in ominous style, breaking the sixth seed in the second game to love with a couple of booming forehands to take a 2-0 lead.

But the US-based Mamiit recovered straight away, breaking back, before he was forced at 4-5 down to dig deep and save two set points for 5-5.

Lee kept his cool and held serve before again breaking his opponent with a cross-court forehand that found the line to take the first set.

Sensing victory and with Mamiit tiring, Lee stepped up the momentum breaking the world number 187 three times including in the final game, winning 6-0 when Mamiit hit long.

Lee conceded that the first set had been tough, saying he felt sluggish and describing Mamiit's style of play as aggressive and tenacious.

"In the second set I felt better and I was playing better and in the end I won relatively easily," he said.

The world number 49 helped South Korea win the men's team gold earlier in the tournament.

Lee won silver at the last Games, beaten by Thai star Paradorn Srichaphan, but he was promoted to top seed here after Paradorn withdrew during his first match with an injured wrist.

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