The 25-year-old Russian defeated Li, Asia’s only Grand Slam winner, 6-4, 6-0, to reach the final for the first time in five attempts, but it took the French Open champion a while to break into her stride.
Li sped to an early 3-1 lead due to some poor serving by Sharapova, including three consecutive double faults in one game, but the Russian fought back, winning three games in a row before taking the set with a break.
“It was a really high-quality first set with a few ups and downs and obviously she (Li) had the lead,” Sharapova said.
In those first few games I thought my percentage of first serve was low. Against someone like Li Na who likes to step in and take the ball early, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to have to hit too many second serves. My goal after that was just to get my first-serve percentage much higher than it was in the first three or four games. I came back and then I broke her in that last game of the first set. It was important to take that momentum going into the second.”
And continue her momentum she did, taking six games without reply to steamroll Li in little over half an hour. “She had a better performance than I did and she had better control of the match, but I think I played pretty well today,” Li said.
Sharapova will play World No 1 Victoria Azarenka in the final after the Belarusian beat ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-2.