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Jiang didn’t believe her, so he came to Beijing to see for himself.

“I was doing some exercises with Carlos. (Jiang) was sitting in the gym,” Li said. “After I was halfway done, he was like, `Are you finished?’ I said, `No, only halfway.’

“He said, `I’m tired!’ I said, `Don’t say that. I’m doing exercises; you’re only sitting. Don’t say you’re tired.’”

Li acknowledges now the hard work was worth it. Her fitness was tested against the fourth-seeded Radwanska, a crafty player who relies on spins and slices to construct points and wears her opponents down with her consistency.

Radwanska tried to dictate play by moving Li around the court, but the sixth-seeded Chinese star countered with deep, heavy groundstrokes and superb volleying, winning 20 of 24 points at net.

Li will next play the No. 2-ranked Sharapova, who can see a difference in Li’s game since she’s been working with Rodriguez.

“She’s a Grand Slam champion. It wasn’t like she needed someone to come in and fix her game,” she said. “But sometimes when you just have a different surrounding and a new voice, they might be saying the same things but it just gets to you a little bit differently and your motivation changes.”

Li knows she will have to be sharp against Sharapova _ the Russian won the three matches they played last year. But she believes she’s a stronger player now.

“I’m getting a little bit older, getting more experience,” Li said. “Right now, I really enjoy every match.”


WILLIAMS SISTERS OUT: Perhaps it was a bad omen for the Williams sisters when one of Venus’ shots from the baseline pegged Serena in the back during their doubles match.

Serena shook it off, but the match went downhill from there.

After winning the first set in their Australian Open quarterfinal against top-ranked Italian duo Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, the Williams sisters lost 3-6, 7-6 (1), 7-5 _ halting the Americans’ bid for their 14th Grand Slam doubles title.

Older sister Venus was to blame for a string of errors at crucial moments, including two double-faults before losing her service game to give the Italians a 6-5 edge in the third set.

Errani served out the 2-hour, 36-minute match without dropping a point, thanks in part to Venus sending the final shot into the net.

Story Continues →