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Tennis: Li Na's Amazing Run Ends
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China's Li Na gave second seed Kim Clijsters a scare yesterday as the Belgian made her way into her second Wimbledon singles semi-final with a 6-4. 7-5 victory.

The US Open champion looked in control when she led by a set and a break against China's first grand slam quarter-finalist but was made to scrap all the way to set up an all-Belgian semi-final against Justine Henin-Hardenne, who battled past French qualifier Severine Bremond 6-4, 6-4 in another quarter-final match.

Clijsters eventually ended Li's resistance on her third match point after the hard-hitting 27th seed had threatened to take the quarter-final into a deciding set.

"She's the type of player who likes to play aggressive tennis and I knew I had to do that as well," said 23-year-old Clijsters.

"In the end I'm happy I pulled it back from a break down."

Clijsters broke serve in the opening game but Li, who became the first Chinese player to win a WTA title in 2004, replied with a thumping backhand winner to break back for 2-2.

A volley error gave Clijsters an immediate chance to break again and this time the Belgian did not let her advantage slip as she served out the set.

The start of the second set was a replica of the first, only this time from leading 2-0 Clijsters suddenly found herself trailing 5-2 as Li's big serve and heavy groundstrokes allowed her to dominate the rallies.

But 24-year-old Li squandered a set point at 5-3 when she pummelled a backhand into the tramlines and Clijsters broke back with a thundering forehand winner.

Clijsters was at full stretch in the next game before levelling the set at 5-5, then seized on some Li errors to break again. Li bravely saved two match points but on the third she punched a backhand long to the relief of Clijsters.

In-form Henin-Hardenne defeated French qualifier Severine Bremond 6-4, 6-4 to advance. She has now won her last 16 matches after retaining her French Open title last month and winning the Eastbourne grasscourt warm-up event.

The 24-year-old is seeking to complete her set of grand slam titles by winning Wimbledon and the third seed's all-round court skills allowed her eventually to outplay a gusty Bremond on court one.

"I knew it was going to be a very dangerous match and she proved it," said Henin-Hardenne. "She wasn't scared of playing on court one or the situation. It's important to be ready to fight even if on paper it looks easy."

World No 1 Amelie Mauresmo dropped her first set of the tournament before beating Anastasia Myskina 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals.

She will face 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in the last four. Sharapova landed a 6-1, 6-4 victory over compatriot Elena Dementieva.

However, her match was interrupted in the second set when a naked man streaked on to Centre Court and performed a cartwheel before being bundled away by security.

Sharapova politely averted her gaze and said afterwards it was the strangest thing that had happened to her on a tennis court.

"It was real bizarre. Even more bizarre that it took 10 seconds for security to come," she told a post-match news conference.

"I didn't really look at the guy, thank God. I didn't want to look at all the details."

However, when told that some of the female spectators had been impressed by the streaker's physique, Sharapova added: "He was? Maybe next time I'll take a look."

(China Daily July 5, 2006)

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