World number 11 Li Na has progressed to the final of the Sydney International with a straight-sets victory over Serbian teenager Bojana Jovanovski.
Both players struggled to hold serve throughout the match in blustery conditions on Ken Rosewall Arena, but Li used her superior experience to prevail 7-6 (6/4) 6-3 in a tense encounter.
It was a bizarre first set as both players surrendered three service breaks and combined for 41 unforced errors.
Jovanovski was first to strike, earning the opening break in the third game only to lose three consecutive service games late in the set.
Li, who twice failed to serve out the set, eventually claimed it in a tie-break despite playing well below her best in the opening hour.
The eighth seed from China continued to cash in on Jovanovski’s unreliable serve, earning a double break in the second set to race to a 5-2 lead.
In a worrying sign for the 2010 Australian Open semi-finalist, she was again unable to serve out the match, conceding her fourth service game of the afternoon.
But the 28-year-old sealed victory in the ensuing game when Jovanovski produced her 37th unforced error of the contest after previously saving three match points.
Li will meet either Kim Clijsters or Russian youngster Alisa Kleybanova in tomorrow’s final.
In the men’s draw, Frenchman Gilles Simon comfortably defeated Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov in straight sets, 6-4 6-3, to book a spot in the final four.
Simon, who is on the comeback trail from a knee injury, was understandably pleased with his performance in tricky conditions.
“Today it was very hard to play,” Simon said.
“The conditions are extremely hard. There is a lot of wind. On one side, it’s hard to serve, so I feel like it’s difficult to play your best tennis in these conditions.
“But I did well. That was fine.
“I think I’m playing very good now – as good as two years ago. The thing is in tennis it’s always a matter of confidence.”
The 26-year-old will now play third-seeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis, who also progressed to the semis with a 6-4 6-4 win over Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Fifth seed Richard Gasquet of France will play Serbia’s Viktor Troicki in the third quarter-final, while Florian Mayer of Germany and Italy’s Potito Starace will battle it out for a spot in the semis in the second night match on centre.