Cibulkova to face Li in final

  • Last Updated: January 23 2014, 10:05 GMT

Li Na will meet Dominika Cibulkova in the Australian Open final after the Slovakian continued a tournament of upsets by thrashing Agnieszka Radwanska.

Cibulkova celebrates after reaching the Australian Open final
Cibulkova celebrates after reaching the Australian Open final

Cibulkova's only previous grand slam semi-final came at the 2009 French Open but she appeared completely nerveless in routing fifth seed Radwanska 6-1 6-2.

The Pole played a superb match to beat defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals but she was unable to stamp her unique style on the match in the face of an onslaught from her opponent.

Cibulkova is only 5ft 3in tall but she packs a real punch and her drilled groundstrokes were too much for Radwanska.

The result will be a major disappointment for Radwanska, who had won five of her previous six matches against Cibulkova, including a 6-0 6-0 victory in the final of the WTA event in Sydney last year.

The 24-year-old's only grand slam final came at Wimbledon in 2012, but she was the highest-ranked player in the last four at the All England Club last year only to lose to Sabine Lisicki.

Cibulkova is the first Slovakian ever to make a grand slam singles final, and she revealed that her friend Marion Bartoli's Wimbledon victory last season provided her with inspiration.

Bartoli is in Melbourne and was able to congratulate her friend, with Cibulkova saying: "Straight after my semi-final she came into the gym to me. She hugged me. We were both crying. She was so happy for me.

"She was a big inspiration. When she won Wimbledon, we are very close friends,so I knew she was working so hard for it, so she was the one who deserved it so much.

"When she won it, I knew everything is possible.''

On her performance, she added: "I was just trying to focus on my game. I wanted to enjoy it.

"Of course it was not easy when I was up in the second set. The thought started to come that I could win. I was 100 per cent ready for it and I was just doing what I had to do. That's why I won.

"I think I will say this today many times, it's like a dream. It's something so unbelievable.''

Radwanska felt her match with Azarenka had taken a lot out of her.

She said: "I I felt like I was in slow motion. I had a couple of tough matches, especially yesterday. I think I was not fresh enough.

"I was late for pretty much every ball. I could really feel that it was not my day.''

Earlier, Li ended Eugenie Bouchard's brilliant run to reach her third Australian Open final in four years.

The experience of highest seed left in the last four, and the only one to have won a grand slam title, told in a 6-2 6-4 victory.

Li will now attempt to go one better than in 2011 and 2013, when she lost to Kim Clijsters and Azarenka respectively.

Twelve months ago she fell twice during the final, twisting her ankle and hitting her head, and the 31-year-old said: "This is the third time, so I'm pretty close to the trophy. I'll try to not fall down this time, because last year in the final I think I played well but I was unlucky.''

It could have been a very different week for Li, who was match point down in her third-round match to Lucie Safarova before turning things round.

She has been imperious since, and the 31-year-old said: "I really felt after the match I was getting a second life in this tournament.

"In China, we say if you have a tough time and you pass that, it means you will be so lucky. Or maybe it's giving me back from last year.''

Bouchard has been one of the stars of the tournament.

Supported by her 'Genie army', a group of local admirers, and with a sense of confidence and calmness beyond her years, the 19-year-old had progressed to the verge of a first grand slam final.

Her only teenage moment in her victory over Ana Ivanovic in the quarter-finals came in the post-match interview, where she said she would like to date Justin Bieber.

Her fellow Canadian sent her a good luck message on Twitter before the match, and in the early stages it appeared Bouchard needed all the luck she could get.

At her best, Li is almost unplayable, and in the first five games, Bouchard managed just three points, none of them on her serve.

She dug in to claw two games back before Li, the French Open champion in 2011, wrapped up the set.

But the signs were positive for Bouchard heading into the second, and she won two long games to move into an early lead.

Back came Li, though, and a backhand winner drilled cross court put her 3-2 ahead.

The five games had already taken longer than the first set but, although Bouchard was having success on Li's serve, she was struggling on her own.

The Canadian did manage to hold for only the third time in the match to force Li to serve it out, but there was no late twist, the fourth seed clinching victory with a backhand winner.

Despite her loss, Bouchard will break into the top 20 next week after a year of phenomenal progress.

Last year she lost in qualifying at Melbourne Park, and the teenager said: "I'm proud of how I've improved as a player throughout the tournament. But I'm never satisfied with losing. I'm always disappointed.

"I wouldn't say I exceeded my expectations, but I'm happy with how I did.''

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