Top seed Li Na is through to her second ever BNP Paribas Open semi-final, where she will now meet No. 20 seed Flavia Pennetta for a spot in the Indian Wells final. This marks the sixth time these two competitors will meet on the WTA Tour, with Li Na leading the head-to-head series 3-2. Their only recent encounter took place at this year’s Australian Open quarter-finals, where Li was vicious 6-2, 6-2.
The world No. 2 defeated Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 last night in a rematch of their Australian Open final two month back. It was a far closer match-up this time around, as Cibulkova snatched the opening set 6-3, before Li Na stormed back to lead 5-1 before forcing a decider. While the 12th seed had her opportunity to break in the final set at 3-3 with Li serving, she was unable to secure the break and would the remaining games as well as the match.
“Here was different than Australia – of course the score should be different, but today she played more aggressive,” Li said. “I felt like if I stepped back a bit she would step into the balls more, and in the second set my level dropped and it gave her the chances, and she was getting a lot of winners in.
“I think there’s still a little bit of a problem with my level staying the same from beginning to end, but it’s good information, and I’ll take it and just try to improve my tennis for the next day and next match.”
Flavia Pennetta reached the semi-final of the BNP Paribas Open with a hard-earned victory over American youngster Sloane Stephens. The contest lasted two hours and 26 minutes, with Pennetta winning in the third set 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. While she was behind in the final set, Pennetta won t six of the last seven games of the match, before requiring five match points to close out the match.
“She plays more or less like me, but she’s more powerful than me,” Pennetta said. “I have to be really aggressive tomorrow and try to take control, but it’s not going to be easy. She’s so good. She’s playing unbelievable this year. She started amazing in Australia – the match was completely in one direction and I didn’t have any chances at all. But I hope to have a little bit of a chance tomorrow.”
Li leads Pennetta in their head-to-head, 3-2, and won their only meeting in the last four years in this year’s Australian Open quarterfinals.
Prediction: Li Na in Three Sets