Chinese tennis fans are sitting up and taking notice of Li Na. The 2011 French Open recorded perhaps her best result as she disposed of Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the semifinal of the 2013 Australian Open.
Li, seeded sixth, ended the 13-match winning streak of the fourth seed in style and straight sets. The first set was something of an epic, lasting over an hour. In the end however, Li triumphed 7-5 and then went on to take the second set 6-3.
While not exactly a surprising result, six seed defeating four, Radwanska was a clear favorite with the momentum and form going into the game.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Li reached the final of the 2011 Australian Open, losing to Kim Clijsters, and is only two games away from a second major title, one that would really see her achieve superstardom in Asia and the rest of the world, to almost match the attention she receives in China.
''She's a tough player. I was feeling today against a wall,'' Li said. ''She can hit everywhere, but without a mistake. I was feeling just very tough. You have to focus on every shot. Not every point, every shot.''
''At least now I'm in the semis,'' Li said who could then at least sit back and watch her semifinal opponent emerge from the match later that day. In the end, Maria Sharapova emerged triumphant from that all-Russian match-up against Ekaterina Makarova.
The signs are good that Li can make the final for a second time as she has a good record against Sharapova. Although the Russian has dropped a measley nine games en route to the semi-final.
Li paid tribute to the ‘crazy’ Beijing fitness camp conducted by new coach Carlos Rodriguez. Li has had some recent troubles with different coaches but seems happy with Rodriguez, though his training regime is a tough one.
"After three days, I was dying," she said. "Because my husband didn't come with me to Beijing, I called him and said: 'Carlos is crazy'."
"I was doing some exercises with Carlos," Li recalled. "My husband was sitting in the gym. After I was halfway done, he was like: 'Are you finished?' I said: 'No, only halfway.' He said: 'I'm tired!' I said: 'Don't say that. I'm doing exercises, you're only sitting'."
Perhaps the fitness regime paid off as Li certainly looked fresh in the latter stages of the game.
But she has to do it all again on Thursday. If she can, the most famous Asian tennis player ever could become one of the giants of the global game.