Saturday 16 December 2017

Tennis: Li ready to kick husband out of bed in Chinese bid for glory

Paul Newman

JIANG SHAN, Li Na's husband and coach, should prepare himself for an uncomfortable night's sleep. His wife, the first Chinese player ever to reach a Grand Slam final, is threatening to banish him from their bedroom as she prepares to take on Kim Clijsters tomorrow in the biggest match of her career.

Having revealed that she had slept poorly because of his snoring on the eve of her 3-6 7-5 6-3 Australian Open semi-final victory yesterday over Caroline Wozniacki, Li had a different plan ahead of her big day against Clijsters, who reached the final with a crushing 6-3 6-3 win over No 2 seed Vera Zvonareva.

"I think today he can stay in the bathroom," Li smiled. "Last night I was waking up every hour, so I said to him: 'Stop, I can't sleep.' My husband just said: 'Relax.' He just totally forgot me."

Clijsters was the pre-tournament favourite to win the title here, but Li, who was knocked out by Serena Williams in the semi-finals 12 months ago, has good reason to believe she can become her country's first Grand Slam singles champion.

The 28-year-old world No 11 is unbeaten this year and beat Clijsters in the final in Sydney a fortnight ago, despite losing the first five games. She will need to avoid the nerves she showed in the first set against Wozniacki. Li struggled to put the ball in the court, making 17 unforced errors in the opening set, and it was not long before Wozniacki, serving at 5-4 in the second set, had match point, which Li saved.

Two games later the roles were reversed and Wozniacki, on set point to Li, served a double-fault. Li made the decisive break to lead 5-3 in the final set and went on to serve out for victory.

Clijsters, runner-up here seven years ago, played some of her best tennis of the fortnight in beating Zvonareva in just 73 minutes. (© Independent News Service)

Women's Australian Open final,

Live, tomorrow, Eurosport 8.0am

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