4-6, 6-3, 7-6(7-1).
In her semifinal, the 8th seeded, 28 year old Li topped Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia 7-6(7-5), 6-3 to advance to the final round.
Clijsters reached the WTA Tour’s world number one ranking in August of 2003 before announcing her retirement from tennis in May of 2007. Two years later upon her return to the sport however, Clijsters won the 2009 US Open in only her third tournament back.
Almost exactly one year ago, Li defeated the current world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark at both Sydney and at the Australian Open. Then at Melbourne in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Li also upset former world number one Venus Williams of the USA before losing to her sister, the defending Melbourne champion Serena Williams in two tiebreakers.
By reaching the Melbourne semifinals, Li became the first Chinese player ever to reach the top 10 in the WTA Tour world rankings.
Although only 5 feet, 7 inches tall, Li is known for her hard, flat powerful groundstrokes. However she trails Clijsters head to head 1-4 with Clijsters winning the duos last match at the 2009 US Open quarterfinals 6-2, 6-4.
A win Friday for Clijsters would mean a rise in her WTA Tour ranking from three to two. Should Clijsters also win in Melbourne, she could then ascend to the top rankings position. The Australian Open begins January 17th.
Li remained optimistic about her chances.
“I have nothing to lose,” Li said. “She’s a great player. I just need to practice now and try to show my best tennis on the court tomorrow.”