Li Na reaches back-to-back semis in Australia

Posted Jan. 24, 2011, at 9:24 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 24, 2011, at 11:32 p.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Defending champion Roger Federer advanced to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win over Stanislas Wawrinka on Tuesday in a mismatch that had the intensity of a practice session.

Federer, aiming to become the first man to win five Australian titles, was playing in his record-tying 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal.

No. 19 Wawrinka was playing at this stage for only the second time at a major and struggled against Federer in the first all-Swiss quarterfinal at a Grand Slam. He had only beaten Federer once in their seven previous matches.

Wawrinka had only one look at a break chance against the 16-time Grand Slam winner. Federer cashed in on five of his seven chances.

On the women’s side, Li Na beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4  to reach the semifinals for the second straight year.

The No. 9-seeded Li broke her German rival’s serve three times in the first set and twice in the second, recovering an early break in each set and playing more consistently than Petkovic.

Li lost the 2010 semifinal in two tiebreak sets to eventual champion Serena Williams.

“It’s good for me — second time in a Grand Slam semifinal always in Australian Open,” Li said. “Hopefully I can do better in this year. I don’t want to lose in semis again.”

The 28-year-old Li was the only quarterfinalist from the last Australian Open to reach the last eight this year.

She has extended her winning streak to 10 matches this year, including her title run at the tuneup tournament in Sydney, where she became the first Chinese player to win a WTA Premier singles title.

Rafael Nadal is on a 25-match winning streak in Grand Slam tournaments and is focusing on his “Rafa Slam” right now. He was more comfortable talking about his 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 fourth-round win over Marin Cilic on Monday night than his modeling work for Armani.

Nadal already holds the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns and is three wins from an Australian title. Nobody has held all four men’s majors at once since Rod Laver in a calendar year in 1969.

He next plays fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, who fended off big-serving 20-year-old Canadian qualifier Milos Raonic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

In the previous round, Nadal had complained that a virus he picked up two weeks ago in Qatar left him weak and caused him to sweat more than usual.

“The two other days I was sweating like crazy and I felt very tired when I played the match,” he said. “Today was the first day that I felt perfect physically. So that is the most important thing.”

Andy Murray, the last man to beat Nadal at a major — in their quarterfinal here last year — made only 10 unforced errors in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 11 Jurgen Melzer. In the quarterfinals, he’ll meet Alexandr Dolgopolov, who ousted French Open finalist Robin Soderling 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.

On the women’s side, No. 3 Kim Clijsters wasted plenty of chances to break Ekaterina Makarova before winning 7-6 (3), 6-2, while No. 2 Vera Zvonareva kept rolling toward a possible third consecutive Grand Slam final with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Iveta Benesova.

Zvonareva, who lost the Wimbledon final to Serena Williams and the U.S. Open final to Clijsters last year, moved into a quarterfinal against No. 25 Petra Kvitova, who rallied past No. 22 Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska beat China’s Peng Shuai 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 and in the quarters will meet Clijsters, the growing favorite for the women’s title.

Defending champion Roger Federer takes on No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka in the first all-Swiss quarterfinal at a Grand Slam on Tuesday, while 2008 champion Novak Djokovic takes on Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych.

In the women’s quarterfinals, No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki faces French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.

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