French Open 2011: Sharapova sets up semi-final clash with Li

Maria Sharapova to play Na Li in Paris after reaching her first Grand Slam semi-final in over three years

French Open 2011: Sharapova sets up semi-final clash with Li

Seventh seed Maria Sharapova stormed into the semi-finals the French Open with a 6-0 6-3 thrashing of Germany’s Andrea PetkoviÄ”¡.

The Russian secured her first appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final in over three years and will now focus on capturing the only Major title to have eluded her.

PetkoviÄ”¡ had dumped Sharapova out of the Australian Open in straight sets earlier this year but the Russian banished any lingering memories of that premature fourth-round exit with a commanding win in Paris.

Sharapova, 24, raced out of the blocks as PetkoviÄ”¡ struggled to match the intensity of her opponent. Fifteenth seed PetkoviÄ”¡, bidding to make the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time in her blossoming career, was visibly nervous as she submitted to the former world No1.

And the German 23-year-old was powerless to prevent Sharapova racing to the first set in just 32 minutes, the Russian forcing her into 13 unforced errors.

The second set was a much closer affair as PetkoviÄ”¡ managed to contain the Sharapova onslaught. However, the Russian secured a crucial break of serve in the sixth game to edge 4-3 ahead before holding to seal her passage into the last four.

“It was tougher than the scoreline suggests,” said Sharapova, who has taken the best part of three years to recover from a shoulder problem. “There were a lot of games that could have gone either way. I played really smart on the important points.

“There is no doubt I have improved on this surface. As the years have gone on I feel I have got better and better.”

She added: “I’m in the semi-finals and my goal is just to take it a step further right now. I put a lot of work in to be at this stage of the grand slams. I’m really happy that it’s here.”

In Wednesday’s second’s quarter-final sixth seed Na Li became the first Chinese woman to reach the French Open semi-finals with a 7-5 6-3 victory over Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka.

A tight opening set saw Li trade blows with the dangerous fourth seed, but at 6-5 the 21-year-old Belarusian cracked and Li pounced to take the first of three set points.

The 29-year-old Li, who remained calm throughout despite it being her first quarter-final appearance in Paris, fell behind at the start of the second set as Azarenka momentarily took control of the match at 2-1.

But Azarenka’s serve crumbled once more and Li immediately broke back before seizing the initiative and going on to seal her spot in Thursday’s semi-finals.

“Many people think I’m not so good on a clay court, but I think now they should change their minds a little bit,” Li said after setting up an exciting semi-final showdown with Sharapova. “This is a huge surprise for me.”

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