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WTA Stuttgart 2013: Na Li vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands SF Preview

By Pawan Atri    + Follow

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Keywords: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix | Na-Li | Bethanie-Mattek-Sands
WTA  Stuttgart 2013: Na Li vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands SF Preview
World no.5 Na Li will square-off against the woman who can be crowned as the player of the tournament Bethanie Mattek-Sands for a spot in the final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Saturday. The Chinese who is slightly ahead of the pack as far as playing on the red dirt is concerned will be the favorite to advance against the American who has had a fairy-tale run so far in the event.

Li and Mattek-Sands will provide the fans the kind of entertainment they will be looking forward to as both the ladies head into the clash with a huge amount of confidence under their belts. While Li is all set to begin her dominant run on a surface on which she feels to be at home, Mattek-Sands is enjoying the best phase of her career and has made the phrase ‘fortune favors the brave’ her own in recent times.

The 2011 Roland Garros winner has surely grown leaps and bounds of late as she has finally overcome her emotional demons that generally made her vulnerable when the wind wasn’t blowing in her favor. Additionally, she has now transformed her aggression into her forte as she doesn’t pulls the trigger early on in the rallies and with her new approach that emphasizes on controlled aggression she has converted herself into a full-blown world class player.

Her 17-3 win/loss record for the year so far mirrors that improvement. The 31 year old breezed through her opener against Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-1, 6-2 and then followed that win with a topsy turvy act versus the 2011 Wimbledon conquerer Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. Li was all over the Czech as she led the world no.8 by a set and 4-1 in the second set, but a little lapse in concentration saw Kvitova pegging her back to 5 all. Nevertheless, she somehow steadied the ship and broke back once more before closing out the match 6-3, 7-5 on her own serve.  

Meanwhile, her rival Mattek-Sands has had a dream run thus far. The Phoenix resident was down a match point in the second round of qualifying against Maryna Zanevska, but scraped through that one and after taking down Yanina Wickmayer and Sara Errani in the first two rounds, she surprised everyone once again as she blasted off 24 winners to prevail over Sabine Lisicki in the last 8.

When Li was asked about her thoughts on her impending duel with the US citizen, she said: "Bethanie plays a lot of doubles and can do a lot of things on the court. She likes to play aggressive and come to the net. I will have to play deep to keep her at the baseline. She has had a good week and should be confident - but I'm doing well too, so I think it will be a good match!"

Li has won the pair’s only meeting that was contested on the clay-courts of Madrid in 2011, having defeated her in a three set thriller, couple of weeks prior to her historic triumph at Roland Garros. With the 2nd seed making all the right moves since she hired Justine Henin’s mentor Carlos Rodriguez as her coach, she will not be too perturbed by the fact that the 104th ranked Mattek Sands has already pulled up a few upsets en-route to the last 4 as she knows that if she performs to the best of her potential then she will win the bout without any trouble whatsoever.

Pick: Li in two.

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US Open, Men Singles  Final
Kei Nishikori (JPN) 0 3 3 3
Marin Cilic (CRO) Winner 3 6 6 6
Nishikori - Cilic    3 - 6    3 - 6    3 - 6   
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