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Chinese star Li Na faces Clijsters in Australian Open final

Li Na was beaten in the Australian Open semifinals last year by eventual winner Serena Williams.
Li Na was beaten in the Australian Open semifinals last year by eventual winner Serena Williams.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Li Na goes one better than last year by reaching the final of the Australian Open
  • Chinese ninth seed saves match-point to upset world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki
  • The 28-year-old will play U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters in Saturday's title match
  • Clijsters will move up to second in world rankings after beating Vera Zvonareva

(CNN) -- China's Li Na made history on Thursday by becoming the first Asian tennis player to reach the singles final of a grand slam tournament in the Open era, ending the Australian hopes of world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

The 28-year-old, a beaten semifinalist in Melbourne last year, battled back to win 3-6 7-5 6-3 in two hours and 35 minutes as she saved a match-point in the second set.

Wozniacki, seeking her first grand slam title, led 5-4 but Li responded with a superb forehand down the line to escape and went on to set up a clash with former No. 1 Kim Clijsters.

The Belgian progressed to the Australian Open final for the second time with a 6-3 6-3 win over Vera Zvonareva that will lift her above the Russian to second in the world rankings.

Tennis will miss the elegance of Henin

It's a good experience for my whole life, because many players play a long time but never come to the final of a grand slam
--Li Na
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Last year Li and compatriot Zheng Jie both made the semifinals in an unprecedented achievement by Chinese players, and now she is looking to savor Saturday's experience against three-time U.S. Open champion Clijsters.

No male or female player from the Asia region has reached the final of a grand slam event since the fully professional era began in 1968.

"This is good for me, for my team and good for Chinese tennis," the ninth seed told the WTA Tour website after beating a top-ranked player for the second time in her career, following 2008's victory over Serena Williams in Stuttgart.

"It's a good experience for my whole life, because many players play a long time but never come to the final of a grand slam."

Elbow injury forces Henin to quit tennis

The 20-year-old Wozniacki, who won the 2010 season-ending championship, is hoping to bounce back from her disappointment.

"I had a match-point and I didn't take it. Sometimes in tennis it's one ball that can change everything," said the Dane, runner-up at the 2009 U.S. Open.

"It's quite difficult to get through this one. I just need to get back on the practice court and keep working hard. Hopefully I'll get many more chances."

Clijsters is seeking her second successive grand slam title, but her first in Melbourne after losing the 2004 final.

The 27-year-old had lost three of her previous four meetings with Zvonareva, but this time powered to victory in an hour and 13 minutes.

"I'm happy I was able to raise my level," Clijsters said. "It's nice to be in the situation of last two standing and trying to finish on top. This is the last match -- give everything you have."

The 26-year-old Zvonareva was disappointed to fall short, having made the finals of the previous two grand slams at the U.S. Open -- where she also lost to Clijsters -- and Wimbledon.

"I just have to think about what I can do next time if I meet a player like Kim, who's playing her game perfectly. What can I do to hurt them? What can I improve in my game to come up with something better next time?"