INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Daniela Hantuchova, the 2002 champion, defeated Li Na 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 Friday to move into the women's title match at the Pacific Life Open.
At the end of the 2-hour, 20-minute match when temperatures on the court topped 100 degrees, Hantuchova thrust her arms skyward and then beamed as she waved to the crowd.
No. 18 Hantuchova will play No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, for the women's crown Saturday.
Kuznetsova, a 21-year-old Russian looking for her ninth career title, beat Sybille Bammer 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1 despite having six double faults and making 48 unforced errors.
She made up for the mistakes by hitting 39 winners to 24 for Bammer, who had three double faults and made 41 unforced errors.
Andy Murray, persevering after he twisted his left ankle in the
second set, outlasted Tommy Haas 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8) in their night
match to advance to the men's semifinals. He will face another
19-year-old, Novak Djokovic, who beat David Ferrer 6-3, 6-4.
The other semifinal will match No. 2 Rafael Nadal against No. 3
Andy Roddick. The men's final is Sunday.
Murray, from Scotland, turned his ankle and took a scary-looking
tumble in the third game of the second set. Rushing to his right to
hit a forehand, he stepped awkwardly on his left foot and went down
in a heap, clutching his ankle and cringing.
He spent some 10 minutes sitting on the court, had his ankle
taped, rose and stepped on his left foot rather gingerly, then was
ready to play again.
Up 2-0 in the second set when he went down, Murray didn't seem
to favor the ankle when play resumed, covering the court well and
walking without a noticeable limp.
Following the match, he said that the pain in his ankle subsided
relatively quickly, but that his right hip -- which he landed on
when he fell -- began to bother him, and so did the large scrape on
his right knee. Earlier in the match, he had a large blister on the
ball of his right foot treated.
"I just hope tomorrow when I wake up, everything's not sore,"
said Murray, whose semifinal is scheduled to begin around 7:30 p.m.
Djokovic, from Serbia, has been on a roll. He won at Adelaide in
the first week of the year and has reached the quarterfinals or
better in five of the six events he's played.
Li, at No. 17 China's top-ranked player ever and one notch above Hantuchova, kept it close in the first set then won the second. But Hantuchova took control quickly in the third, setting the pace with well-placed groundstrokes as Li began making mistakes.
"I definitely felt like I had the edge in the third set. I felt very, very good," said Hantuchova, a willowy 5-foot-11, 123-pounder. "I changed my dress, tried to drink a lot and had a banana and just tried to stay calm and stay cool."
Li said she may have been overly eager to play short points in the third set.
"I was a little bit tired. I wanted to hit a lot of winners because I didn't want to play a lot in the court," she said. "I wanted to hit one or two good shots and then finish the points.
"So I missed a lot," she said.
Looking drained, she lost the final two points of the match on double faults after having only one double fault earlier.
Hantuchova, a native of Slovakia who lives in Monte Carlo, beat Martina Hingis in the final at Indian Wells five years ago. Hantuchova, who was 18 at the time, went into that tournament as a relative unknown, upset third-seeded Justine Henin in the fourth round and then beat the second-seeded Hingis for the title.
That was Hantuchova's first tour victory -- and she hasn't won since.
"It's just a fantastic feeling to be back on the court in the finals once again. I'm going to enjoy it and have a great time," she said. "Really, it's amazing."
Hantuchova believes her game is getting steadier.
"Before, it was too much up and down," she said. "I was never really stable. But now I know what it takes to win big tournaments and to have great wins.
"I think with being mentally much, much stronger, I feel like the best times are still ahead," she said.