Australian Open 2014: Underdog Dominika Cibulkova upsets Agnieszka Radwanska to set-up final against Li Na

Semi-final thrashing came after Na saw off 19-year-old sensation Eugenie Bouchard with the pair set to collide on Saturday

Melbourne Park

Marion Bartoli may have retired, but the Wimbledon champion’s spirit survives in the shape of one of her best friends. Dominika Cibulkova, who will meet Li Na in Saturday’s women’s singles final here at the Australian Open, revealed that she had been inspired by Bartoli’s success at Wimbledon last summer.

Cibulkova, who will become the first Slovakian to play in a Grand Slam final, extended her remarkable run of results by beating the world No 5, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1, 6-2 in just 70 minutes. The world No 24 had also beaten higher-ranked opponents in her three previous matches, knocking out Carla Suarez Navarro, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep.

“Marion was a big inspiration,” Cibulkova said. “We are very close friends. When she won Wimbledon I knew she was working so hard for it. She was the one who deserved it so much. When she won Wimbledon, I knew everything is possible.”

Bartoli, who retired within weeks of the greatest win of her career, has been here working for television and has been encouraging Cibulkova. “Straight after my semi-final she came into the gym to see me,” Cibulkova said. “She hugged me. We were both  crying. She was so happy  for me.”

Radwanska had beaten Victoria Azarenka, the defending champion, in the previous round but was given the run-around by Cibulkova, who chased down every shot and hit a succession of winners from both flanks. Radwanska admitted that previous efforts had taken their toll and said it had felt as if she was playing in slow motion.

 

Cibulkova reached the semi-finals of the French Open five years ago but her achievements since then have been modest. At 5ft 3in she is one of the smallest players in the modern game, but proved with her aggressive play against Radwanska that she still packs a big punch.

“It’s not about how tall you are,” Cibulkova said. “Even if you are tall, it doesn’t mean that you are 100 per cent going to make it. It’s just you have to really want something and just believe in it. There is nothing more important than this.”

Li, who beat Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-4 in her semi-final, will go into Saturday’s match as the favourite. The 31-year-old Chinese has an excellent record here, having finished runner-up in 2011 and 2013, and also has a Grand Slam title under her belt. In 2011, she became the first Asian player of either sex to win a Grand Slam singles title when she won the French Open.

Bouchard rarely threatened after making a dreadful start, losing 20 of the first 23 points in just 14 minutes. Li, who saved a match point against Lucie Safarova in the third round, had to work harder in the second set but still ran out a comfortable winner.

Cibulkova has lost all four of her matches against Li but after her performances here she will not be lacking in confidence. “You need to be 100 per cent sure you can do it,” she said. “I know I can do it. It’s big pressure to play in a final, but I still want to enjoy it on the court. I don’t want to suffer on the court.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'