Although it didn't feature the star power that most tennis fans anticipated at the start of the tournament, there was plenty of excellent play on Day 11 at the Australian Open. Three singles players punched their ticket to the finals, and they did it in impressive fashion.
The women's final is all set after Li Na took down the fast-rising Eugenie Bouchard, and Dominika Cibulkova surprisingly had her way with Agnieszka Radwanska. The men's final has yet to be determined as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will face off on Day 12, but Stanislas Wawrinka is waiting for them by virtue of a four-set win over Tomas Berdych.
The likes of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic all fell short of making it to the semifinal matches on Day 11, but here is a closer look at how those who did make it that far ultimately fared.
|Women's SF||Li Na (4) def. Eugenie Bouchard (30)||6-2, 6-4|
|Women's SF||Dominika Cibulkova (20) def. Agnieszka Radwanska (5)||6-1, 6-2|
|Men's SF||Stanislas Wawrinka (8) def. Tomas Berdych (7)||6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6|
Li Na vs. Eugenie Bouchard
With the top three seeds in the women's draw ousted, all of the pressure shifted to No. 4 Li Na. She entered Day 11 as the only women's player remaining with a Grand Slam title in tow, and she has enjoyed a great deal of success Down Under in recent years as well.
On top of that, Li took on 19-year-old upstart Eugenie Bouchard, who was making her debut in a Grand Slam semi. All of this could have caused Li to tighten up and play less than her best, but that simply wasn't the case.
In fact, Li couldn't have started the match better as she jumped out to a huge lead on the Canadian youngster. According to Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times, Li dropped just three of the match's first 23 points:
Li Na has won 20 of 23 pts so far, including all 12 on Bouchard's serve, for 5-0 lead. Genie not playing great, but Li is amazing. #AusOpen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 23, 2014
She went on to take the first set 6-2, and then managed to close things out 6-4 in the second despite the fact that Bouchard started to gain her footing.
Li seemed to have an advantage on serve entering the match, and that certainly manifested itself. Li was able to get 61 percent of her first serves in, while Bouchard only served at a 45 percent clip. Also, Bouchard was destroyed on her second serves, winning just 18 percent of those points.
The 31-year-old Li is the more experienced player, and it showed on Day 11. With that victory, Li managed to reach the Aussie Open final for the third time in the past four years, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Li Na reaches the Australian Open final for the 3rd time in 4 years— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 23, 2014
She fell short in her previous two attempts to win the title, but Li will be favored this time around, so perhaps it will be a different story.
Dominika Cibulkova vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
Who will win the 2014 Australian Open women's final?
After her upset victory over Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals, No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska was expected by most to take down No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova. Not only did Aga appear to be in fine form, but she had made a Grand Slam final in the past, so she entered the contest with more big-match experience than her opponent.
Although Cibulkova winning the match wasn't necessarily shocking, the manner in which she did it was.
Cibulkova had little trouble dispatching Radwanska in straight sets as the Polish favorite seemed physically spent. Radwanska was able to get to almost every ball against Azarenka, but she lost that pep in her step.
Both Radwanska and Cibulkova were playing for the second day in a row, but Radwanska acknowledged that she had to spend a lot more time on court than her opponent, according to Melissa Isaacson of ESPN.com:
I feel like (I was) in slow motion today. I had a couple tough matches, especially yesterday. I think I was not fresh enough. I (felt) real slow today. I was late for pretty much every ball. I could really feel that it was not really my day. Of course I was trying, especially in the second set, to come back. I think I just wanted (to), but my legs, not really.
Having already played three-set matches on three occasions in the tournament, Radwanska didn't have much left in the tank. Cibulkova took advantage of that, and she became the first Slovak to reach a Grand Slam final, per the WTA:
Cibulkova's focus now shifts to Li in the final. The 5'3" Cibulkova has had her issues against Li in the past as her 0-4 record suggests, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Looking ahead to the Australian Open women's final: Li Na is 4-0 career vs Dominika Cibulkova (this will be their 1st Grand Slam meeting)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 23, 2014
With that said, Cibulkova is clearly playing the best tennis of her career right now, and it wouldn't be wise to count her out.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Tomas Berdych
One half of the men's draw was considered to be significantly weaker entering the Australian Open, and that became even more apparent when No. 2 Novak Djokovic bowed out. That left No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka and No. 7 Tomas Berdych to battle it out for a spot in the Australian Open final against the winner of a familiar Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer contest, and Fed's countryman ultimately came out on top.
With the victory, Wawrinka reached the first Grand Slam final of his career, according to the Australian Open on Twitter:
Since players such as Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray have dominated the Grand Slam scene for the past several years, it is so difficult for players like Wawrinka to break through. He earned his spot by taking down Djokovic, though, and he took advantage of a golden opportunity against Berdych.
The scoreline might suggest that Wawrinka had a fairly easy time with Berdych, but it all came down to the tiebreaks. In fact, Wawrinka only won one more point than Berdych over the course of the match:
Things were so tight that Berdych chalked the loss up to luck in the tiebreaker:
Although luck may have played a role, there is no doubt that Wawrinka deserved it. Wawrinka will be a heavy underdog regardless of who wins the other semifinal, but it wouldn't be wise to sleep on a player who is playing better than he ever has before.
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