MELBOURNE, Australia -- Li Na has advanced to her third Australian Open final and will have to beat Dominika Cibulkova to win her first title at Melbourne Park.
No. 4-seeded Li had a 6-2, 6-4 win over 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in the first semifinal Thursday (Australia time) before No. 20-seeded Cibulkova trounced 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-2.
Li, the 2011 French Open champion, was the only major winner and the highest-ranked player in the semifinals after the fourth-round upsets of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and defending champion Victoria Azarenka's quarterfinal loss to Radwanska. Cibulkova has been the biggest surprise of the tournament, reaching her first Grand Slam final. The diminutive Slovakian has won all but one of her matches in straight sets -- her upset fourth-round win over Maria Sharapova went to three.
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. "Tough match of course in the final. I think for sure both will try fight on the court because it's one more step to take the trophy."
Li raced out to a 5-0 lead in 14 minutes while people were still entering Rod Laver Arena and finding their seats.
Bouchard had a lot of support in the crowd -- there were people with Canadian flags painted on their faces, and a couple even wearing the national hockey jerseys.
Bouchard's own personal cheering section, the "Genie Army," serenaded her throughout the match, at one point competing directly with a group of Li's supporters across the stadium who chanted "Let's Go Li Na" in Mandarin.
The Canadian teenager was playing only her fourth Grand Slam tournament, was seeded 30th and became just the second player from her country to reach a major semifinal.
"I think maybe she will be best player in the world. But today (I'm) so lucky," said Li, who jokingly apologized to the Genie Army. "Sorry about that. If you guys be happy, I will go home."
That won't happen until after the final, her third in four years at Melbourne Park.
Li considered quitting the tour after the French Open last year, when she was beaten in the second round and was struggling with the off-court pressure. After reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, the Chinese star opted against retiring and then reached the U.S. Open semifinals. Li, who turns 32 next month, has gone another step further in Australia.
After saving a match point in the third round against Lucie Safarova, she has started all her matches aggressively.
On Wednesday, sixth-seeded Roger Federer finally wore down the Wimbledon champion and fourth-seeded Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 to set up a semifinal showdown with top-ranked Rafael Nadal.
"For me it was just a matter of staying calm and forgetting about it a little bit because, you know, the match was great until that point," Federer said.