Li Na in action during the WTA Shenzhen Open semifinals against Annika Beck of Germany in Shenzhen on Friday. Photo: CFP
WTA Shenzhen Open final
Top-seeded Li Na eased into the final of the 2014 Shenzhen Open tennis tournament on Friday with an overwhelming 6-1, 6-3 semifinal victory over Germany's Annika Beck.
In Saturday's final, Li will face compatriot Peng Shuai, the fifth seed who benefited from a walkover after Vania King of the US withdrew with an injury before the match started.
World No.3 Li, who will turn 32 next month, never faced any real challenge from the 19-year-old Beck, who is currently 58th in WTA rankings.
Li broke Beck in the very first game of the match, but the eighth-seeded German immediately broke Li in the second. It seemed that the match might be a hard-fought one for a moment, but defending champion Li comfortably won the next 10 games.
After winning the first set 6-1, Li easily led the second set to 5-0, when Beck finally found some form and won the next three games. But it was all too late for the German. Li finished the match in just 62 minutes.
"This victory was the easiest one for me so far in the tournament," Li told reporters afterward. "Yesterday's match really gave me a lot of exercise. It made me fully prepared for today's match."
Li was talking about her hard-fought victory in the quarterfinals on Thursday, when she defeated Romanian Monica Niculescu after three action-filled sets.
When asked about Saturday's final with Peng, Li said, "Certainly it will be a tough match for both of us, since we know each other really well. No matter what happens, I hope I can enjoy tomorrow's match."
Li defeated Peng in the semifinals of the first edition of the Shenzhen event last year.
"After one whole year, both of us have made great progress. I'm really looking forward to our match," Li said.
This will be the second time that two Chinese players compete in the final of a WTA event. In 2006, Li and Zheng Jie both made it to the final in Estoril, Portugal. But Li was forced to retire injured when the match was tied at one set each.
Having claimed 12 doubles WTA titles, Peng, currently ranked 42nd in WTA rankings, has yet to win a singles WTA title. Before Saturday's final, she has played in the singles finals of WTA events five times, but never won. She said the desire to win her first singles title did not put her under extra pressure.
"Both of us are desperate to win the final," Peng told reporters. "But I won't think I am not good enough if I lose my sixth final again tomorrow. Another defeat won't make me lose confidence in myself.
"It's more likely that Li Na will win the match, but I still have my chance. It depends on which of us can play better tomorrow."