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Beyond the Baseline

Australian Open Day 11 preview: Three spots in singles finals on the line

Li Na Li Na is looking to reach her third Australian Open final. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Both women's semifinals and one men's semifinal are scheduled for Day 11 of the Australian Open. ESPN2 will televise the women's semifinals beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. ESPN will have the men's match starting at 3:30 a.m. Thursday.

Li Na [4] vs. Eugenie Bouchard [30] (second match, Rod Laver Arena; not before 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday): The Veteran vs. The Ingenue. Li, 31, a finalist last year and in 2011, is the highest-ranked player remaining and has a golden opportunity to win her second Grand Slam title. Bouchard, 19, whose composure belies her age, is unfazed by the idea of contesting her first major semifinal in her first main-draw appearance at the Australian Open and fourth at a Slam. She believes she belongs with the game's elite.

Li won their only meeting, a 6-4, 6-4 victory in the first round of the 2012 Rogers Cup. But the Bouchard she'll face on Thursday is a very different player. Bouchard is more aggressive than ever, hitting and serving big and showing a willingness to go for winners from anywhere. Li will need to adjust to that level of aggression. A good serving day is key: If Li can hold without much trouble, then the pressure is with Bouchard, whose serve isn't as good as her opponent's (yet).

From a technical perspective, Li is too good at this stage of her career to lose this match. Bouchard, though, may have the mental edge. The teenager has nothing to lose, while Li is facing the pressure of delivering on her best chance to win here -- there's no Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka standing in her way -- and, at her age, who knows how many more shots she'll get?

PREDICTION: Li in two sets.

Here are highlights from Li's victory at the Rogers Cup:


Agnieszka Radwanska [5] vs. Dominika Cibulkova [20] (third match, Rod Laver Arena): The big question is whether Radwanska can recover emotionally and mentally from her big win over two-time defending champion and personal nemesis Azarenka in the quarterfinals. Here's the range of how this match could go: Last year, Radwanska dropped a double bagel on a tearful Cibulkova in the final of the Sydney International. Seven months later, Cibulkova won 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Bank of the West Classic. That was Cibulkova's only victory over Radwanska in six matches; the 24-year-old Pole won their most recent meeting, 6-4, 6-4 at the Pan Pacific Open in September.

Radwanska should win, given her craftiness and ability to keep Cibulkova on the move and the ball out of her strike zone. But Cibulkova, 24, a semifinalist at the 2009 French Open, has looked sharp in dropping only one set in five matches while ousting three top-16 seeds in Carla Suarez Navarro, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep. Cibulkova has won six of 11 sets by a score of 6-0 or 6-1. She hits a big ball and goes for broke on her shots. If she's zoning again, Radwanska will have her work cut out for her.

PREDICTION: Radwanska in two sets.

Here are highlights from Cibulkova's victory at the Bank of the West Classic:


Stanislas Wawrinka [8] vs. Tomas Berdych [7] (first night match, Rod Laver Arena; 3:30 a.m. ET Thursday): Wawrinka is the man of the hour after knocking out three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals to make his second Slam semifinal in a row. The 28-year-old Swiss is seeking his first major final appearance. Berdych has quietly coasted through the draw, with his four-set victory over No. 3 David Ferrer in the quarterfinals the only time he lost a set.

Wawrinka leads their head-to-head 8-5 and he won all three matches last year, including a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6), 6-2 victory on an outdoor hard court at the U.S. Open. In fact, Berdych has beaten Wawrinka on an outdoor hard court only once in five attempts, at the 2009 Australian Open. After seeing Wawrinka's performance against Djokovic, it's hard to bet against him as long as he was able to recover from that five-set match.

PREDICTION: Wawrinka in four sets.

Here are highlights from Wawrinka's victory at the U.S. Open:

Videos via igrecman, WTA and Tennis HD.
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