Fri, Jan 03, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Li battles past Niculescu into Shenzhen semis

AFP, BEIJING

China’s Li Na returns to Monica Niculescu of Romania in their Shenzhen Open quarter-final at the Longgang Sports Center in China yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Chinese superstar Li Na battled her way to yet another victory yesterday, downing Romania’s Monica Niculescu after three action-packed sets in the quarter-finals of the Shenzhen Open.

Li, Asia’s highest-ranking player in tennis history, opened strongly, besting Niculescu 7-5 in the first set.

The 26-year-old Romanian fought back with a 6-4 win in the second, before Li toppled her in the third set 6-4.

Li, 31, the defending Shenzhen Open champion, is also the world No. 3. Her success has sparked a new Chinese interest in tennis, as well as a swell of national pride.

China’s state broadcaster CCTV this week named her rise its No. 2 sports story of last year.

China notched another victory yesterday when fifth seed Peng Shuai soared to victory over Slovakia’s Jana Cepelova 6-3, 6-2.

Vania King of the US bested Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4, while eighth seed Annika Beck of Germany came back from an initial 3-6 loss in the first set to triumph over Austria’s Patricia Mayr-Achleitner in the final two, 6-3, 6-1.

AUCKLAND CLASSIC

AFP, AUCKLAND, New Zealand

Ana Ivanovic continued her compelling form at the Auckland Classic as she swept into the semi-finals with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Japan’s Kurumi Nara yesterday.

She is joined in the final four by Venus Williams, Kirsten Flipkens and Jamie Hampton.

Ivanovic raced through her match against Nara in 76 minutes, dominating with her powerful first serve.

The in-form Serb next plays close friend and doubles partner Flipkens for a place in the finals.

Third seed Flipkens had to fight back from 2-5 down in the second set to defeat Sachie Ishizu of Japan 6-4, 7-5.

Belgian Flipkens has also won every match this week in straight sets and she broke Ishizu twice late in the second set to ensure she retained her record.

The second semi-final today is an all-American affair after Jamie Hampton beat Lauren Davis 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in a marathon three-setter and Venus Williams beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-3.

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