MELBOURNE, Australia — Li Na has her third and probably best chance to win the Australian Open after advancing Thursday with a 6-2, 6-4 win over 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.
No. 4-seeded Li, the 2011 French Open champion, is the only major winner and the highest-ranked player still in contention after the fourth-round upsets of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and defending champion Victoria Azarenka's quarterfinal loss to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
In the final, Li will face Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, who made quick work of the No. 5-seeded Radwanska, 6-1, 6-2.
Cibulkova has won all but one of her matches in straight sets.
Li lost last year's Australian Open final to Azarenka, after falling over and hitting her head twice on the court. She lost the 2011 decider to Kim Clijsters, her first appearance in a Grand Slam final, and recovered from that loss to win her one and only major at Roland Garros.
“Last time was a little bit tough. I will try this time to make one more step,” Li said.
Li was aggressive from the start against Bouchard, who started nervously and didn't win a point in her first three service games. Fittingly, she finished off the match with a backhand crosscourt, one of 16 backhand winners against Bouchard.
The Canadian teenager was playing only her fourth Grand Slam tournament, was seeded 30th and became only the second player from her country to reach a major semifinal.
“I wouldn't say I exceeded my expectations, but I'm happy with how I did,” Bouchard said. “I always want to do better. To me it's not a surprise. I've been working hard my whole life to do this — play at Grand Slams and do well. It's not an overnight thing.”
The glamour match of the tournament will be on the men's side, when Roger Federer faces Rafael Nadal in a semifinal Friday.
After wasting a handful of break-point chances in the third set Wednesday, Federer finally wore down Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3, to reach the Melbourne semifinals for the 11th year in a row.
Nadal lost the first set and faced set points in the third, getting a reprieve when first-time quarterfinalist Grigor Dimitrov pushed a forehand just wide in a tiebreaker. Despite a painful blister on the palm of his left hand that hampered his serve, Nadal advanced, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7), 6-2, against the 22-year-old Bulgarian.
Stanislas Wawrinka faced Tomas Berdych in the first semifinal Thursday night.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times