Preview: Li Na vs. Maria Sharapova

Russia's Maria Sharapova serves to Venus Williams during their third round clash at the Australian Open tennis championship on January 18, 2013
© AP Photos
Sports Mole looks ahead to Thursday's Australian Open semi-final between sixth seed Li Na and former champion Maria Sharapova.

Thursday sees Maria Sharapova take on Li Na at the Australian Open with a place in the first Grand Slam final of the year at stake.

Both players have yet to drop a set at the tournament, with Sharapova losing just nine games on her way to the last four.

Sixth seed Li has enjoyed some success against the Russian in recent years, most notably in the semi-finals of the 2011 French Open before going on to win her only Slam singles title to date.

However, Sharapova has triumphed in their last four encounters - a statistic that will see the second seed start the contest as the favourite.

Head to Head record:

Li 4-8 Sharapova

Previous best at Australian Open:

Li: Final 2011
Sharapova: Winner 2008

Route to semi-finals:

Li

R1: Sesil Karatantcheva 6-1 6-3
R2: Olga Govortsova 6-2 7-5
R3: Sorana Cirstea 6-4 6-1
R4: Julia Goerges 7-6(6) 6-1
QF: Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5 6-3

Sharapova

R1: Olga Puchkova 6-0 6-0
R2: Misaki Doi 6-0 6-0
R3: Venus Williams 6-1 6-3
R4: Kirsten Flipkens 6-1 6-0
QF: Ekaterina Makarova 6-2 6-2

Sports Mole says: Sharapova to scrape into the final

David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro shake hands following their Australian Open quarter-final on January 22, 2013
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