Victoria Azarenka v Sloane Stephens as it happened

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka beats Sloane Stephens with her sixth match point to set up an Australian Open final against Li Na.

24 January 2013 Last updated at 07:03

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As it happened

  1. 0702: 

    That is about all from me for the moment though. We will be back shortly before 0830 GMT with live text commentary of Djokovic v Ferrer, but until then I will leave you to mull over a women's draw that has be shorn of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova to leave us with a final of Li Na against Victoria Azarenka. Bye for now.

  2. 0658: 

    What about that Andy Murray then? Well, he and Roger Federer fought out two wins apiece over 2012 over the height of Wimbledon, London 2012 and the World Tour Finals. 2013's first instalment comes from 0830 GMT tomorrow with video coverage on BBC Two, BBC HD, and online with radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live. No excuse for not being across the Scot's every move.

  3. 0652: 

    While the day session spectators head for the drinks stalls for a cup of something cool and long to ease the 35-degree heat, let's look ahead to what tonight's evening session brings.

    From one demonstrative world number one to another. Azarenka-esque temper tantrums are not so much Novak Djokovic's style though, he is more of an Incredible Hulk shirt-ripping kind of fella. Not really an option that can be wisely explored by Azarenka to be fair.

    Anyway, the Serb will be hunting a landmark third Australian Open title against Spain's David Ferrer from 0830 GMT. BBC Radio 5 live sports extra is the place to get live audio commentary, while the text version will be on this website.

    Novak Djokovic
  4.  

    Ed Salinger on Twitter: "So choking is grounds for a medical time out, should introduce that in all sports, England might win a penalty shoot out."

  5. 0643: 

    While we were soaking up that drama on Rod Laver, Great Britain's Lucy Shuker was involved in a wheelchair single semi-final against Germany's Sabine Ellerbrock. Shuker has fallen one match short of the final, beaten 7-6 (7-1) 7-5 by the second seed.

  6. 0637: 

    One lady who looks almost abnormally cool under pressure is young Sloane Stephens. As the seasoned professional opposite her was flitting from mood to mood, the American kept going for her shots and delivering her best. A little nervy at the start, but once she was up and running, it was another composed performance from her.

  7. 0634: 

    By the sounds of Victoria Azarenka's post-match comments, that medical time-out was as much for psychological stress rather than physical distress. Surely taking five minutes to sort out a wobbly mental state is not what that rule was there for? There could be a bit of a post-mortem to go through on this one.

  8.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "The reception for Azarenka is decidedly lukewarm compared to that for Stephens, who probably did enough to become an official Aussie over the last fortnight. Azarenka did play very well for much of the match and was the deserved winner. We wait to find out the exact nature of her physical issues, and whether that could be a factor in Saturday's final."

  9.  

    Victoria Azarenka: "I almost did the choke of the year. Leading 5-3 I had so many chances. I was just a little overwhelmed, knowing I was one step from the final. Li Na is playing some of her best tennis so it will be a tough match. I am just really happy to pull through."

  10.  
    Stephens 1-6 3-6 Azarenka

    Victoria Azarenka blows kisses to all four sides of the Rod Laver Arena. There is not a lot of love coming back. A double fault from Stephens and Azarenka climbs into her second serve to take the score to 30-30. Stephens has won a couple of good points in between though and another takes her to 40-30. Azarenka whittles away another point though to join her on deuce. In comes the world number one to put away a short forehand and she has a sixth match point. This one Azarenka nails. Or rather Stephens punts long. A smattering of applause greets the defending champion's victory.

  11.  
    GAME, SET AND MATCH

    VICTORIA AZARENKA BEATS SLOANE STEPHENS 6-1 6-4 TO MAKE THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINAL

  12.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "Azarenka was not exactly the crowd favourite before she went off for a medical timeout, and after a slow handclap her reappearance is greeted by a few ironic cheers. This won't be doing Redfoo's sales any good. Stephens has had to sit on court for six minutes thinking about serving to stay in the match."

  13. 0620: 

    I say three minutes of treatment, but Victoria Azarenka got more than her money's worth there. Finally she is back on court and we can resume.

  14.  

    Jonathan Chase on Twitter: "At the moment Li Na is looking like the probable champion purely on the basis of being able to keep it together when it matters."

  15. 0613: 
    OUCH!

    The plot thickens. Victoria Azarenka calls for the doctor. It is not her ankle that is bothering her now, it looks like some sort of breathing or back issue. Is it stress-related? Who knows? Azarenka heads behind the scenes to get three minutes of treatment. Stephens sits staring into the middle distance, waiting completely impassive.

  16.  
    STEPHENS BREAKS- *Stephens 1-6 4-5 Azarenka

    You cannot take your eyes of this one. Victoria Azarenka marches to 40-15 and two match points and it seems simple enough. A shake of her ponytailed head as she nets on the first though and she thumps the loose ball into the floor as she overcooks on the second. The crowd expect as Slone Stephens builds beautifully into the next point but the final killer stroke at the net is long from the American. Another match point. Another Azarenka error and more histrionics as the world number one causes uproar in nearby dogs' homes with an anguished squeal. She collects herself to see off a Stephens break point and puts away a forehand volley to earns a fourth match point. Invited into midcourt, Azarenka thrashes into the net once more. A fifth match point goes to the wall and cannot be revived by Azarenka's referral to Hawkeye. Great drama as Stephens passes for a second break point, but then curls long to waste. Azarenka gifts her a third and this time Stephens makes it stick. Extraordinary and Azarenka looks wrecked by the loss of that game.

  17.  
    AZARENKA BREAKS- Stephens 1-6 3-5 Azarenka*

    Like a certain south London football team, no-one likes Victoria Azarenka, and she really doesn't mind. The crowd greet Stephens into the game with roars of encouragement. Azarenka sends her packing out of it with her tail between her legs. Three break points and Stephens clocks long on the second. Azarenka to serve for the match next.

  18.  
    STEPHENS BREAKS- *Stephens 1-6 3-4 Azarenka

    An adrenaline overspill from Azarenka keeps the match in the balance. Slone Stephens gets her claws into another service game, battling her way to deuce and then earning a break point as she runs around a mid-court ball to unload with a fizzing forehand winner. Azarenka smokes a serve down the middle to see off that danger. The Belarussian has psyched herself into a storm. A fist-pump of celebration greets that point. But she bubbles over as a double fault gives Stephens another break chance. An outraged bellow follows that miscue and the Belarussian slams the ball into the ground as she loses the game with a wide forehand. The crowd howl with derision. This is getting very tasty.

  19.  
    AZARENKA BREAKS- Stephens 1-6 2-4 Azarenka*

    Victoria Azarenka, moving a little easier now, changes up a gear to move 0-30 up and as Sloane Stephens attempts to do likewise, she blazes a forehand long to hand over three break points. Another error from Stephens racquet completes a lightning quick break. You do not want to make Azarenka mad.

  20.  
    YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS- *Stephens 1-6 2-3 Azarenka

    Victoria Azarenka's mood is darkening. Umpire Carolyn Kramer asks her to replay a point, ruling that despite Hawkeye ruling one of her serves in, the erroneous call of out came before Stephens played the ball. Azarenka turns on her heel without a word after hearing the official's explanation. She holds serve from 15-30 down, but tosses an unused ball away in a way that suggests there is a storm brewing inside. She has already lost most of the crowd, but the Belarussian is not in for any popularity contests.

  21.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "Azarenka certainly looks to be struggling a bit, taking a breather in the corner near Redfoo, who I can see way down below me. Let's face it, you could see Redfoo at the bottom of a lift shaft. Stephens came back from a set and a break down yesterday after Serena picked up an injury, could she be about to do the same again?"

  22.  
    Stephens 1-6 2-2 Azarenka*

    Victoria Azarenka opted not to call for the trainer during the changeover, but she does not look too comfortable out there. She comes forward to win a point at the net for 15-15, but she is none too nimble as Stephens gets the Belarussian shuttling side to side and moves to 40-15. A tentative plant of the foot from Azarenka into a netted forehand closes the game and this match still has a pulse.

  23.  
    STEPHENS BREAKS- *Stephens 1-6 1-2 Azarenka

    Is that a glimmer for Sloane Stephens? There is a sense of deja-vu on Rod Laver as, just like against Williams, the favourite looks to have picked up an injury. Azarenka hops about as she turns her ankle attempting to turn and the American teenager has 0-30. Stephens initially struggles to take advantage, but having forced break point from deuce, she crashes away a forehand to put the set back on serve. All eyes will be on Azarenka's movement when she reemerges...

  24.  
    AZARENKA BREAKS- Stephens 1-6 0-2 Azarenka*

    This match could get away from Sloane Stephens very quickly. The crowd roar their approval as Stephens stands her ground to save one break point and then rattles down a big serve to salvage another from 15-40 adrift. An over-cooked Victoria Azarenka backhand with a clear corridor of court to aim at brings more cheers and a dismayed squeak from the world number one. Could that turn the game her way? Afraid not. The American cuffs a forehand long and then folds out of the game as she pushes over the baseline on a third break point.

    aZARENKA
  25.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "Big sighs around Rod Laver Arena as Stephens nets a forehand early in the second set, her 20th error, although hard to call it unforced as Azarenka is all over her. The atmosphere is a bit muted now and only the sound of birds tweeting, fans fluttering and the world number one doing what she does fill the stadium."

  26.  
    *Stephens 1-6 0-1 Azarenka

    Victoria Azarenka polishes off the opening game of the second set with ease and Sloane Stephens has not been able to make any indents on the Belarussian's game at all yet.

  27.  
    GAME AND FIRST SET- Stephens 1-6 Azarenka*

    It has been a fairly harsh lesson for Stephens so far today and Azarenka is the sort of teacher who still laments the day they took away her cane. Love-40 and three set and break points as the world number one hits out and Stephens can't find an answer. Stephens nibbles one back, but a measured lob from Azarenka ease her through. Stephens lost the first set against Williams yesterday though. And was a break down in the second...

  28.  
    *Stephens 1-5 Azarenka

    Victoria Azarenka gives Sloane Stephens a sniff as she telegraphs a drop shot attempt from a weak return from the American. Stephens is up to the net in a twinkle to whip away a winner for 40-30. A squeal of disappointment follows for Stephens though as she attempts a massive off-forehand winner to take her to deuce. It flies well wide. Stephens will serve to stay in the set next.

  29. 0512: 

    Maria Sharapova has been asked whether the absence of Serena Williams in the draw made her own defeat today feel like a missed opportunity. "Absolutely not. I think champions want to face the best. That's what makes the sport exciting and fun. You always want to be facing the best in the sport. If somebody's afraid to go out and face that challenge, then it's not really a good quality, you know. I love going out and competing against the best in the world."

  30.  
    AZARENKA BREAKS- Stephens 1-4 Azarenka*

    Victoria Azarenka dictating the rhythm and Sloane Stephens is having to dance to her tune. The American lands some mid-court nonsense that Azarenka plonks away for a winner, 30-40 and a break point. The world number one wraps a forehand round Stephens at the net and thinks she has scored a hit. Her stroll back to the chair is interrupted though as it is called, rightly, long. Stephens has a couple of chances to close out in a tussle from deuce, but Azarenka keeps clawing her back. Her tenacity is rewarded with a second break point. Sharper and sharper angles on the Azarenka groundstrokes stretch Stephens out wide and the American fires wide as she attempts a down-the-line winner to end the pain.

  31.  
    CELEB SPOT!- *Stephens 1-3 Azarenka

    Victoria Azarenka's service games are a lot more straightforward affairs than Stephen's. She holds for the loss of a point. Some muscular groundstrokes for the Belarussian's other half - LMFAO's afroed beat merchant Redfoo - to admire in the crowd. There is a lot of hair in that relationship. I fear for their shower plughole.

  32. 0500: 

    Great Britain's Andrew Lapthorne has lost 7-5 1-6 6-4 to American top seed David Wagner in the quad wheelchair singles. One more match to go in his round-robin series in Melbourne.

  33.  
    Stephens 1-2 Azarenka*

    Sloane Stephens grows in to the match. And gives us a little peek of the competitive beast that lurks behind a sunny facade. The teenager looks pretty unflappable early in the game. All very poker face whether she is sweeping away a forehand winner across court for 40-15 or punting long to allow Azarenka back to 40-30. Then there is a little hop in frustration though as the American nets to bring up deuce.

    The shoulders drop a couple of inches as her forehand is snared to peg her back from advantage. A tasty ace puts her within range once more, but Stephens is having to soak up a lot of baseline punishment. She forces a bit of that medicine back down Azarenka though as a rolling forehand finds the corner and then a masterful backhand pass seals the game. A clench of the fist and a meaningful glance to her box and the American is in business on the scoreboard.

  34.  
    *Stephens 0-2 Azarenka

    Victoria Azarenka holds to love and Sloane Stephens is still to get her feet under the table.

  35.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "The official temperature in Melbourne has crept up to 34.1C in the last half hour and the stands are a scene of mass fanning and phewing, while a fair few have headed for a post-Li rehydration session. The shady seats are pretty full though, promise."

  36.  
    AZARENKA BREAKS- Stephens 0-1 Azarenka*

    Victoria Azarenka is no mood to give Stephens a congratulatory free ride in the opening game. The Belarussian strokes a forehand wide at 15-15. There is stony silence from the line judge though and Stephens, who looked reluctant to challenge in her win against Williams, has to refer upstairs to get justice done. 40-15 to deuce as Azarenka applies some pressure. Azarenka's big-match experience looks like it is telling as she strolls to the net to put away a backhand volley. Break point. And Stephens' inexperience rears its head as a nervy forehand misses its mark by a good foot and a bit.

  37. 0442: 

    Victoria Azarenka asks umpire Carolyn Cramer if the tournament's Extreme Heat Policy is in effect. Cramer does not know but promises to radio back to base to find out. It is bubbling hot out there on the showpiece court. Stephens to serve first.

  38. 0439: 

    It the first meeting between Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens, the American teenager is the highest ranked player that Azarenka has faced yet in the tournament. The Belarussian had a few problems against Stephens' fellow American Jamie Hampton in the third round though. The lesson that Stephens should take from that match? Go aggressive, go very aggressive.

  39. 0435: 

    Sloane Stephens wanders through the corridors of the Rod Laver, glancing at the posters on the walls as she makes her way to the court with earphones jammed in and luminous tracksuit top in place. The 19-year-old looks casual as you like.

  40. 0431: 

    Next up on Rod Laver Arena is teenage giant-slayer Sloane Stephens against world number one Victoria Azarenka. I'm polishing up the 'shock result' graphic behind the scenes here.

  41. 0429: 

    Li Na famously dispensed with her husband's services as coach in August when she appointed Spaniard Carlos Rodriguez in his place. Mr Li is now on drinks-fixing and racquet-stringing apparently. He also forms the butt of plenty of his wife's post-match interview jokes. I suspect he is not complaining while she is reeling in the big results like this one.

    Li Na
  42.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "A former finalist and semi-finalist in Melbourne already, Li Na has replaced Kim Clijsters as the locals' favourite non-Aussie. There was lots of support for her throughout the match on Rod Laver Arena - quite a lot of it from a large Chinese contingent in the press box. Well deserved after performances like that, and her interviews are peerless. "Is 30 the new 20?" "Actually, I'm younger than you."

    Rennae Stubbs got told. No doubt about that.

  43.  
    GET INVOLVED

    David Dawber on Twitter: "Li Na so frustrating...plays well every so often. So mediocre for the most part, but capable of occasional class"

    Asyraf Halim on Twitter: "Oh my Maria...."

  44.  
    Sharapova 2-6 2-6 Li

    That is Maria's goose cooked. Li Na lands with a big serve to bring up 40-30 and match point. There have been no sign of nerves so far, but perhaps a tugged forehand to lands between the trams is a little jittery. No, it was a mirage in the Aussie heat. The Chinese wallops another serve out wide for a second ace and she knocks hard enough on Maria Sharapova's door to prompt another error. That charming smile spreads over Li Na's face. Maria is polite but stony as she scarpers down the tunnel towards the changing rooms.

  45.  
    GAME, SET AND MATCH

    LI NA BEATS MARIA SHARAPOVA 6-2 6-2 TO MAKE THE FINAL OF THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN.

  46.  
    LI BREAKS- Sharapova 2-6 2-5 Li*

    Maria Sharapova just has never got started today. Perhaps those concerns she was undercooked have been bourne out. A double fault for 0-30 and Maria Sharapova's lips tighten to two thin pale bands. Li Na has a glorious chance to force three break points with a high ball on her favoured forehand at the net. She inexplicably finds the corner of the court that Sharapova is occupying and pays the price. An ace follows from Sharapova, but she screws a forehand wide, under little pressure, at deuce to offer up a break point. Li Na pummels her from the baseline and a Sharapova groundstroke heads south. Li to serve for a place in the final next.

  47.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "One interested spectator on Laver is super agent Max Eisenbud, who represents both players. He started representing Sharapova, said by Forbes magazine to be worth around US$28m per year, when she was 12, and Li, apparently worth a paltry $18m per year, in 2009. It looks like Li could be catching up a bit this week."

  48.  
    *Sharapova 2-6 2-4 Li

    Again, it is Li Na who shows the steelier nerve at the pointy end of the game. Maria Sharapova takes out her frustration on a cross-court backhand from deuce, sending the ball skidding cross-court for a winner and a break point. She has a chance in the next rally after reading Li's intention to head out wide. The court is opened nicely for her but The Russian cannot squeeze the ball down the line. The net claims her attempted winner and Li Na's serving shakes itself down and starts snarling to close out the game.

  49.  
    LI BREAKS- Sharapova 2-6 2-3 Li*

    A game that had seemed safe spills from Sharapova's grasp. On her top form, the Russian's grip is vice-tight. Not at the moment. Sharapova looks like she is sailing before a clumping double-handed backhand return from Li Na gives the Chinese 40-30. A Sharapova error allows her through to 40-40. A second rocket return from the deuce court, this time pitched across court, gives Li a break point. She strays into the net to cede it back to Sharapova, but the Russian's fifth double fault give Li a second. Another routine Sharapova backhand has too much heat on it and crash-lands a yard beyond the baseline. The number two seed's Australian Open campaign is nose-diving towards elimination at the moment. She needs to yank back on the controls hard and soon.

  50.  
    *Sharapova 2-6 2-2 Li

    Routine groundstroke are dying into the net off the Maria Sharapova racquet, giving Li Na too many free points as the Chinese makes her way to 40-15. A little sparkle of Sharapova's previous form glints through the muck as a piercing forehand tracks the whitewash perfectly for a winner. But another miscue, this time long, gives Li the game.

  51.  
    Sharapova 2-6 2-1 Li*

    Maria Sharapova is not at her best either. The first double fault for a while slips in but, relying on those old gut instincts, she has enough to see off Li and make her way back to the changeover stool still ahead in the set.

  52.  
    *Sharapova 2-6 1-1 Li

    The first signs of trouble for Li Na as she drops off the suffocatingly high standard she has set so far. Her serve creaks and a double fault allows Sharapova back to 30-30, before a weak second serve is given the full treatment on return. Sharapova's shot blurs past her to give the Russian a break point. Tonking great groundstrokes from Li Na recovers the break point, but she is in trouble again as she drifts long at deuce. Second break point for Sharapova. The Russian's eyes spin round like fruit machine reels as a tempting serve sits up out wide for her. She throws the kitchen sink into her return, but it is a little too much. Wide it goes and Li politely, but firmly, closes the door. That might be a chance that Sharapova is looking back on this evening if things don't turn out well for her.

  53.  

    Richard Storrow on Twitter: "All I know is SharapovaLi sounds like a lovely word. Perhaps saying one is pretty or beautiful. Eg- she is SharapovaLi."

  54.  
    Sharapova 2-6 1-0 Li*

    A change of bat for Maria Sharapova as she digs about in her bag for some fresh graphite. The Russian holds serve for the loss of one point, but she still is not really shifting Li Na around the court enough. The Chinese is getting nicely embedded at the baseline and a ripped forehand winner is a warning that Sharapova will have to do more to ensure her serve remains unscathed.

  55.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "There's a buzz around Rod Laver Arena as Li takes the first set in 48 minutes. "It's going to be a busy night," says a Chinese journalist next to me. If Li keeps cracking the winners at the current rate, he might be right. "Run, maria, Run!" cries one wag in the crowd. It's 32C and climbing, mate."

  56.  

    David Dawber on Twitter: "Why isn't the roof closed? 44 degrees is inhumane and barbaric."

  57.  
    GAME AND FIRST SET- *Sharapova 2-6 Li

    There is no escapology act from Sharapova this time and she has it all to do in this match as the first set is locked up by Li. Not a hint of nerves as the Chinese rumbles through to 40-0. A strange error as she swipes thin air at the back of the court in reply to a Sharapova return, but she ruthlessly snuffs out the Russian in the next rally.

  58.  
    LI BREAKS- Sharapova 2-5 Li*

    All is not well in Maria Sharapova's world and especially her serve. And it is not being helped by Li's hot streak of form at the back of the court. A faulty tee-off gives Li Na break point. There are still a few gems amid the rubbish that Sharapova is serving up and she sees it off with a rocket down the tee. A cracking cross-court return gives Li a second break point though and Sharapova looks in trouble as she misses with her first serve. She works hard behind her second though to manoeuvre Li out of contention. A powered backhand from Li down the line brings up a third break point. The Chinese duly finds the same patch of plexicushion with a forehand to ensure she will serve for the set next.

  59.  
    SHARAPOVA BREAKS- *Sharapova 2-4 Li

    Sharapova has the survival instinct of Bear Grylls as she breaks back to stay in with a shout. Fifteen-thirty and Hawkeye reveals that Li Na strays just a finger's width long to concede two break points. A bit of rough luck for the Chinese there, who has come out in fearlessly aggressive style. The Chinese lands right on the baseline to save the first and peppers Sharapova with impeccable depth to recover to deuce. That is a wonky connection though as Li pumps wide and the Russian has a third break point. Li cannot scrape up a corking cross-court reply to a first serve and one of her breaks has gone.

  60.  
    LI BREAKS- Sharapova 1-4 Li*

    There has not been any sign of it before in the tournament, but Sharapova looks like she has put the wrong petrol in the tank before this semi. The service gremlins are chewing on her action once again as she commits a double fault on her way to 0-30. Sharapova looks like she has treated those demons with the crushing ruthlessness that she hands out to so many of her opponents as a whipcrack of a tee-off out wide gives her advantage.

    But it turns out those gremlins have relocated to her backhand. Two rough old strokes off that wing give Li two break points in succession. Sharapova saves the first, but Li hammers away at a limp second serve to convert on her second opportunity.

  61.  
    *Sharapova 1-3 Li

    Li Na looking busy and efficient as she holds to love with minimal fuss. A compact backhand down the line proves too good for a slightly sluggish Sharapova before an arcing serve down the middle gets a flick of Russian graphite and nothing else.

  62.  
    Sharapova 1-2 Li*

    As the decibel count goes up, so does the quality from Maria Sharapova. The Russian's ball-striking squeal is about equal in pitch and volume with the squeak of her soles on the hot court surface. She closes out the game with a rifled forehand down the line for the loss of just one point. Better from the number two seed.

  63.  
    *Sharapova 0-2 Li

    Li is certainly smoother out of the blocks. Those Sharapova errors look contagious early in the game. Li Na splutters and creaks to 15-30, finds her range with a popping forehand, but is then beaten all ends up by a superb cross-court Sharapova forehand to give away a break point. 30-40. But the Chinese stuffs it back in the bag with a forceful backhand and then grinds down her opponent in a baseline exchange to endorse her break with a hold.

  64.  
    GET INVOLVED

    Shaun Deehan on Twitter: "Sharapova will win the Australian Open without dropping a set now Serena Williams is out."

    Send us your thoughts using #bbctennis for Twitter or via text on 81111 for UK mobiles.

  65.  
    LI BREAKS- Sharapova 0-1 Li*

    Li Na plunders from Sharapova's errors to claim the first game. I said in my pre-amble that Maria Sharapova's serving problems are behind her. It sure doesn't look like it as she misses with her first five, dropping the first two points with double faults.

    The Russian has a quiet word with herself. She levels at 30-30 with forehand that smears across the sidelines, but goes long off her weaker backhand to allow Li to deuce. Not a lot of footwork from Sharapova there. Another backhand error, this one into the net gives Li her first break point. Telling depth from the Chinese player does for Sharapova in the following rally, getting right up the Russian's nostrils.

    *- denotes next to serve

  66. 0242: 
    BBC coverage

    The umpire calls time and the first women's semi-final is almost upon us.

    By the way Novak Djokovic against David Ferrer the first of the men's last-four matches, is on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra from 0815 GMT today.

    And on Friday, Andy Murray against Roger Federer will be on BBC Two, BBC HD, online and on BBC 5 live from 0830 GMT.

  67.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "The heat could have a major effect on the women's semis, where Sharapova enjoys the benefit of having raced through the draw to this point but must overcome the memory of a 2011 French Open semi-final defeat to Li on a windy day in paris, when her serve disintegrated.

    "Azarenka has not always enjoyed the heat and is up against the irrepressible new kid on the block in Stephens - and if she can beat Serena, she can beat anyone. The temperature tends to build throughout the day and could still be toasty for Djokovic v Ferrer in the night session, but both men could play in a furnace or a fridge, nothing much disrupts their hitting."

  68.   
    Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

    "Thursdays in Melbourne are to be avoided if you're of sensitive skin. One week on from the 40C barrier being broken, we're expecting around 37C today. It's the women who will bear the brunt as their semi-finals begin at 1.30pm local time, with the first men's semi-final kicking off this evening. And today of all days, spare a thought for the ball boys and girls."

  69. 0238: 

    Maria Sharapova, is a lemon yellow and grey number, and Li Na, rocking a white and regal purple number, are out on court knocking up and the headline news is that it is hot. Twenty-nine degrees in the shade is the latest.

  70. 0236: 

    The Russian second seed has breezed through her first five matches in the tournament, collecting her five wins for the loss of just nine games in five hours and 15 minutes. That is just 13 minutes more than it took men's number one Novak Djokovic to overcome Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round.

    But as Sharapova herself said: "should I just give away a few games? It's not really the mentality of a winner."

  71. 0231: 

    Sharapova's haul of four career Grand Slam titles looks a little on the light side, considering she won her first as a 17-year-old at Wimbledon. Since that win she has run into problems with injuries, service actions and the Williams sisters, but none of that trio are around to hinder her in Melbourne now.

  72. 0225: 

    The departure of Serena Williams, winner of the Wimbledon, Olympic and US Open title in the latter half of 2012, has thrown the cat among the pigeons in the women's draw.

    Later today we'll have the intriguing meeting between world number one and defending champion Victoria Azarenka and Williams' conqueror and new girl about tennis town Sloane Stephens.

    But up first in the day's semi-finals, Maria Sharapova's hunt for a fifth Grand Slam title runs into the feisty shape of China's Li Na.

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