jiang shan

Li and Clijsters to Play for Aussie Open Title

By Blair Henley

Li Na may get that shopping spree after all.

With her 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 semifinal win over world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Li has become China’s first Grand Slam singles finalist. And she’s one win away from getting free reign with her credit card as promised by husband/coach, Jiang Shan – the same guy who she says contributed to her early struggles in Thursday’s match.

“I didn’t have a good evening last night. My husband sleep like [snoring noise], you know? I wake up every hour,” she joked in her on-court interview.

Wozniacki served for the match at 5-4, 40-30 in the second set, having taken advantage of repeated mistakes from her opponent’s forehand side. But Li, seeded 9th, more than made up for her 51 unforced errors by striking 42 winners over the course of the match. Wozniacki had only 10 winners – none coming in the third set.

So what inspired Li’s comeback performance?

“Prize money,” she said as the crowd roared with laughter.

The win extends the 28-year-old’s record in 2011 to 11-0 and marks the third time she has topped Wozniacki since the beginning of 2010. Though the 20-year-old Dane will keep her No. 1 ranking, the loss proves once more that she lacks firepower when she needs it most.

Li will meet Kim Clijsters for the Australian Open title in a rematch of their bizarre final in Sydney just two weeks ago. The Chinese beat the Belgian 7-6, 6-3 after coming back from a 5-0 deficit in the first set.

Clijsters looked sharp in her 6-3, 6-3 semifinal win over Vera Zvonareva, but she wasn’t the only Belgian making news. Her countrywoman Justine Henin has announced her retirement due to an elbow injury.

“My elbow is too fragile and hurt,” she said on her website. “Having followed the advice of doctors it is now clear and I accept that here my career ends.”

She will be missed.