Istanbul: Li Na reached the semi-finals of the WTA Championships after beating an ailing Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-1, here, on Friday. Thus Li, the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam singles title, added another famous first to her collection.
It was the first time Li had qualified from the group stage of the Tour’s flagship tournament, and there was rarely any doubt that she would do so with a success which avenged her narrow defeat to the Belarusian at the Australian Open final in January.
Azarenka hurt her back while serving in the sixth game of the first set and was clearly in pain for the rest of the match. The second-seeded player took a medical timeout and received treatment during several changeovers. She stayed on court despite poor movement and wincing in pain.
Azarenka did win one game with some ferocious serving, but mostly stayed in the middle of the baseline and tried to hit quick winners.
However, Li had already been looking the sharper and more potent attacker, and had become the favourite to deliver her third win in three encounters and finish top of her group.
“I thought after the first set she would retire,” Li said of the injured Azarenka. “It was tough for me to focus all the time. But you never know what will happen.
The result also ensured that Azarenka was eliminated and that Jelena Jankovic, the former world No. 1 one from Serbia, qualifies from the White Group in second place.