Li Na's shocking comeback puts her in Rogers Cup final

Li Na hits a return Lucie Safarova during the semifinal match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Que.,...

Li Na hits a return Lucie Safarova during the semifinal match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Que., Aug. 12, 2012. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/QMI Agency)

BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:48 PM ET

MONTREAL - Li Na made a furious third-set comeback Sunday against stunned Czech Lucie Safarova to set up one half of the final matchup at the $2.168-million Rogers Cup.

The 30-year-old veteran from Wuhan, China, won five consecutive games in the decisive set to take the match 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 and advance to her first-ever final in Montreal.

Safarova, the world no. 23 player, appeared to have had the match in the bag earlier in the third set after breaking Li in the fourth and sixth games to go up 5-1.

But the 25-year-old appeared to relax, causing the unforced errors to pile up and allowing Li to win four straight games by establishing a strong serve and ground game built on hard and deep balls.

Li broke Safarova in the seventh and ninth games to make it 5-4, leaving her Czech opponent visibly frustrated.

Li easily won the tenth game, capitalizing on two Safarova forehands that sailed out of bounds.

A well placed Li forehand to the far side of the court left Safarova flailing away and the Chinese star’s turnaround from 5-1 down to 6-5 up left her Czech opponent, and the crowd, in shock.

Safarova scored just two points in the decisive 12th game, and Li pumped her fist and shouted for joy when a Safarova return sailed long to end the match.

Afterward, Li said she never thought she was out of it.

"I just talk(ed) to myself just like point-by-point,” said Li, who has now won six consecutive games against Safarova.

"I really didn't change anything. In a short time, I can't change, of course. So just put ball (to the) back (of) the court."

Safarova admits she was nervous about closing the match while up 5-1 and that her conservative play allowed Li to get back into the match.

"Against a top-10 player, I should have gone for my ... hardest and try to go for winners, not wait for her mistakes," said Safarova, who should still move into the top 20 by virtue of her semifinal appearance.

"She was still hanging there and she was not giving up. Until the last point is finished, it still can change."

The second semifinal pits Czech Petra Kvitova, the top remaining seed in the tournament at No. 5, against Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, the 2010 Rogers Cup champion.

Wozniaki beat Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak in the quarterfinals Saturday. The singles final will be Monday evening.

The evening doubles final pits Russia’s Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovakia against Klaudia Jans-Ignacik of Poland and France’s Kristina Mladenovic.


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