Li Na to meet Dominika Cibulkova in final

12:57, Jan 23 2014
2014 Australian Open gallery
VENUS WILLIAMS: bowed out early in the first round.
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CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: celebrates winning her first round match against Lourdes Dominguez Lino.
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ANDY MURRAY: had a comprehensive win in his first round match against Japan Go Soeda.
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MARINA ERAKOVIC: hits a forehand during her first round match with Sorana Cirstea.
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SERENA WILLIAMS: untroubled in the second round match.
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NOVAK DJOKOVIC: hits a forehand during his second round match with Leonardo Mayer.
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Li Na celebrates her semifinal win over Eugenie Bouchard.
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Rafa Nadal crushed Roger Federer in straight sets, and will play Stanislas Wawrinka for his 14th grand slam title in the Australian Open final.
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THIRD TIME LUCKY: Li Na kisses the Daphne Akhurst trophy after defeating Dominika Cibulkova in the Australian Open final.
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Runner-up Dominika Cibulkova and champion Li Na during the trophy presentation.
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Dominika Cibulkova pumps her fist after winning a point in the Australian Open final.
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Li Na stretches for a two-handed volley in the women's final.
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Stanislas Wawrinka kisses the Australian Open trophy after his first grand slam victory.
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Stanislas Wawrinka sits with the Australian Open trophy at the post-final press conference.

China's Li Na will play Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in the Australian Open final after both scored comfortable semifinal victories today.

Li, the fourth seed, looked like winning in record time against Canadian 30th seed Eugenie Bouchard, but failed to maintain the pressure and progressed with a 6-2 6-4 victory.

The 2011 French Open champion is into her fourth grand slam final - and third at Melbourne Park after losing title matches to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Victoria Azarenka last year, both in three sets.

Cibulkova belied the seedings in her 6-1 6-2 defeat of Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska to make her first grand slam final.

The fifth-seeded Radwanska had the form and the record to dominate the semifinal, but the 20th seeded treated her as she had her previous four, more highly-ranked, opponents.

Cibulkova added Radwanska to a list that at this tournament includes third seed Maria Sharapova, 11th seed Simona Halep and 16th seed Carla Suarez Navarro.

She said she approached the semifinal as she had every other match.

"Even if I made mistakes, I knew I had to go out there and go for my shots," Cibulkova said.

"I have a lot of respect for Aga. Her defensive game is unbelievable."

A convincing scoreline in the first of Thursday's semis disguised a nagging fragility in Li's game.

After bursting from the blocks and racing to a 5-0 lead in only 14 minutes, Li took the same amount of time to wrap up the set and a further 58 minutes to complete the victory.

For Li, 31, the result was as it should have been against a relatively inexperienced 19-year-old.

But she might need to do more if she is to capitalise on her arrival in a grand slam final after twice being a loser.

Even in Li's barnstorming opening set, she dropped serve at 5-0.

Bouchard duly held for the only time in the set before Li went to a 1-0 lead.

The Canadian then issued her own challenge in the second set.

With a more composed approach she twice broke Li's serve, only two drop her own serve three times.

It was a performance the winner acknowledged.

"She will be No.1 in the world one day," Li said.

While Li seems certain to be a dominant favourite in her bid to add the Australian title to the French Open she won in 2011, the weight of history is against her.

Not since Margaret Smith Court won in 1973 has any woman over the age of 30 claimed an Australian Open crown.

The list of those to have tried and failed includes some of the greatest players of the last century, including Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert - and Li herself 12 months ago.

HOW LI NA AND DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA MATCH UP AHEAD OF THEIR AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINAL ON SATURDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):    

4-LI NA leads 20-DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA (SVK) 4-0

2013 Toronto, hard, QF, Li 7-6 (7-1) 6-2
2012 Rome, clay, QF, Li 6-1 7-6 (7-4)
2010 Madrid, clay, R32, Li 6-2 3-6 7-5
2008 Antwerp, carpet, R16, Li 6-4 6-3

LI NA (CHN)

Age: 31
Ranking: 4
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US13,410,352 ($A15.19 million)
Career titles: 8
Grand slam titles: 1 (French Open 2011)
Australian Open win-loss record: 32-8
Best Australian Open performances: finalist 2011, 2013, 2014

DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA (SVK)

Age: 24
Ranking: 24
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US2,291,411 ($A2.60 million)
Career titles: 3
Grand slam titles: 0
Australian Open win-loss record: 13-6
Best Australian Open performance: finalist 2014

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Dominika Cibulkova
OVER THE MOON: Dominika Cibulkova celebrates her win over Agnieszka Radwanska.

Reuters