Li again gets best of Cibulkova
Top seed Li Na edged Dominika Cibulkova in three sets on Thursday, reprising her victory over the Slovakian in the Australian Open final to book an Indian Wells semi-final berth.
It wasn't as smooth as the 7-6 (7/3), 6-0 triumph in Melbourne that gave China's Li a second Grand Slam title in January.
Li sweated out a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory in two hours and 36 minutes, battling a more aggressive Cibulkova as well as her own erratic play.
"I think today she played more aggressive," Li said. "I was feeling if I tried to go back a little bit, she was trying to step in to hit the ball.
"Also I was feeling in the second set I was dropping down a little bit and giving her more chances. She can get a lot of winners."
Li broke Cibulkova three times in the first set, but Cibulkova turned the tables in the second as Li's error count crept up.
Cibulkova raced to a 5-1 lead with breaks in the third and fifth games, and even though Li battled back to win the next three games she couldn't hold off Cibulkova any longer as the Slovakian held to force a third set.
After an early exchange of breaks in the third, Cibulkova was unable to convert two break chances in the seventh game. Li made the most of her escape, breaking Cibulkova for a 5-3 lead and wrapping it up in the next.
"I'm disappointed I didn't win today because I had my chances," said Cibulkova, who was able to convert only four of her 12 break points.
"It was closer, but I know that I could win today, so it's a little disappointing."
Even so, Cibulkova leaves California for next week's tournament in Miamia -- a favorite of hers -- pleased that she's maintained her level since her performance in Melbourne.
She closed out February by winning the title in Acapulco.
"That's something I'm really proud of myself about, because in the past I had good results, and after I just didn't continue with it," she said. "Now it seems like I became a more consistent player."
Li, who successfully defended her title in Shenzhen before capturing her second career Grand Slam title in Australia, will face the winner of Thursday's quarter-final clash between rising US talent Sloane Stephens and Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta.
The other women's semi-final between second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska and Romanian Simona Halep was set on Wednesday.