Li, seeded No. 1, eliminated sixth-seeded Peng Shuai 6-4, 6-0, improving to 5-1 lifetime against her Chinese countrywoman. Li piled up six breaks -- three in each set -- in the win and took more than 60 percent of the points in the match.
Zakopalova, who also had six breaks Friday, advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Monica Niculescu. She also won more than 60 percent of the points.
Zakopalova is 2-1 against Li but Li took their most recent match 6-1, 6-0 last year in California.
Li is 6-8 in WTA tournament title matches after going 1-3 in finals last year. Zakopalova will be appearing in her first title match since September 2010. She's just 2-9 in previous finals, with both wins coming in 2005.
The Shenzhen champion will take home $112,080 while the runner-up earns $56,040. Niculescu and Peng each collected $30,051 as semifinalists.