Paris: Li Na became the first Chinese player to reach a French Open semi-final with an upset 7-5, 6-2 win over fourth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on Wednesday.
She now stands just one match away from a second straight Grand Slam final, having lost to Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open championship match at the start of the year.
On that occasion she was the first Chinese player to have reached the final of a Grand Slam event.
The 29-year-old Li, seeded sixth on her fifth appearance at Roland Garros, will play Russian seventh seed Maria Sharapova on Thursday for a place in Saturday's final.
Azarenka, the highest-ranking and, at 21, the youngest player left in the tournament, procured the first break of the match in the third game, but she gave that back immediately with a poor service game that ended in a double fault.
Li, who converted to tennis as a nine-year-old after an early grounding in badminton, saved two break points in a marathon seventh game before finally taking a 4-3 lead.
The Belarusian was being made to work hard by her Chinese opponent who varied her shots to great effect in order to pull Azarenka away from the baseline where she was able to dominate with her heavier hitting.
Those tactics worked a treat in the 12th game when she twice wrong-footed the fourth-seed to get to 0-40 and then clinched the set with a rasping backhand crosscourt drive.
The second set opened in identical fashion to the first with Azarenka breaking in the third game to take a 2-1 lead only for Li to hit back immediately with a break of her own.
The Chinese player was clearly the quicker about the court of the two players and it was footwork again that let down Azarenka in the sixth game with two unforced errors setting up a break point which Li took with a forehand passing shot down the line.
The sixth seed held serve to zero as Azarenka's confidence fell away and she finished her off in the next game, converting her third match point when the Belarusian hit a backhand wide.