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Upset string puts Cibulkova in Australian Open final against Li

Jan. 23, 2014 at 6:59 AM   |   Comments

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MELBOURNE, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Dominika Cibulkova Thursday defeated a fourth consecutive seeded player and earned a spot in the Australian Open women's singles finals against Li Na.

Li, ranked fourth in the world, claimed a third finals berth at Melbourne with a 6-2, 6-4 win over 30th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard before Cibulkova, the No. 20 seed, took out No. 5-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-2.

Cibulkova beat No. 16 Carla Navarro Suarez, third-ranked Maria Sharapova, No. 11 Simona Halep and Radwanska in succession for a shot at her first Grand Slam title. She advanced as far as a major tournament semifinals once before -- 2009 at the French Open.

Li was an Australian Open semifinalist in 2010 and the tournament runner-up in 2011 and 2013. Saturday will mark her fourth Grand Slam final, adding a win at the 2011 French Open to her previous title-match appearances in Melbourne.

Cibulkova pasted Radwanska, who'd knocked out two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals, 6-1, 6-2, in 70 minutes. Cibulkova won 10 of the first 11 games before Radwanska managed to win back-to-back games. But Cibulkova claimed her sixth break and was able to finish off the win.

Radwanska had nine break chances but Cibulkova allowed her to win only one. Meanwhile, Cibulkova finished off 6-of-9 of her break opportunities.

Li raced out to an early 5-0 lead -- losing only three of the first 23 points in the match -- in her semifinal. Bouchard did have a 2-0 lead in the second set but Li was able to assert her game again and won going away.

Li ended with 35 winners in taking 71 total points and also had six breaks while allowing Bouchard just 10 winners.

Li has a 4-0 career record versus Cibulkova, with all the matches being deciding in straight sets. That includes a 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 decision in Toronto last year in their most recent meeting.

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