Li Na overpowers Maria Sharapova at Australian Open

Sharapova still holds an 8-5 record over Li and won all three of their matches in 2012 when Li struggled to produce an encore to her remarkable 2011 season, when she reached the final at the Australian Open and then became the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam singles title at the French Open.

updated: January 24, 2013 13:03 IST
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Melbourne, Australia: It still does not look quite right to see Carlos Rodriguez working for anyone but Justine Henin as he sits in the players box wearing his poker face and a ball cap.

For years, Rodriguez was Henin's mentor and tactician in chief, a diminutive, Argentine-born coach who systematically helped the sensitive Henin overcome her fears and limitations to become the world's No. 1 player and a multiple Grand Slam champion.

But Rodriguez is back at the heart of the women's game, and he was in the stands again on a steamy Thursday afternoon observing every nuance as his new pupil, Li Na, played one of the best big matches of her career to defeat Maria Sharapova, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the Australian Open final.That the sixth-seeded Li could beat the second-seeded Sharapova was no big surprise. One of China's biggest sports stars, Li is one of the game's true quality players and was a finalist here in 2011, but that she could beat Sharapova so easily was definitely a surprise.

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