The Sydney semifinals were interesting to watch because they featured two talented veterans--one often hampered by nerves, the other finding success in her "second" career--who faced two younger talents. Li Na had to contend with a young talent in 19-year-old Bojana Jovanovski, who is an impressive hitter with a weak serve. There were some memorable rallies, Jovanovski had a couple of chances to take the first set, and Li did have moments when she seemed to doubt herself--but she prevailed 7-6, 6-3. The Chinese star with the great forehand has not had much luck with big semifinal contests in the past, so a ticket to the Sydney final is a breakthrough for her. It was Jovanovski who was beset by nerves, and also defeated by experience.
The other semifinal was so irresistable, I stayed up way too late to watch it. Alisa Kleybanova--with an aching back, blisters on her feet, and sweat dripping off of her cap in abundance--looked as though she couldn't go on, but Kleybanova has reserves of energy that can keep her on the court for hours. She and Kim Clijsters broke each other over and over, and the Russian--when she looked to be in the most trouble--repeatedly brought out serves that flustered her opponent. She won the first set, Clijsters won the second, and a commentator predicted the third would conclude in a tiebreak. It did, and Clijsters ran away with it, 7-1. The whole thing lasted over two hours and 38 minutes, and between them, Clijsters and Kleybanova hit 83 winners.
Kleybanova lunged for near-impossible winners, while Clijsters hit repeated precision angled forehand winners. It wasn't the Belgian's best performance, but it was a good one, nevertheless. All in all, the match's entertainment value was high.
Clijsters is 4-1 against Li. They played in the Sydney semifinals in 2007, and Clisters defeated Li 6-1, 1-6, 7-5.