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Fortune smiles on Li Na who is making the most of her 'second life'

Twelve months ago, Li Na looked on her way to becoming the champion in Melbourne, only for fate to strike her down with an ankle injury in the final, not once but twice, as she lost out to Victoria Azarenka.

Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia plays a backhand on her way to winning her semi-final match against Agnieszka Radwanska to set up a final with Li Na
Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia plays a backhand on her way to winning her semi-final match against Agnieszka Radwanska to set up a final with Li Na

Li is not a gambler but it feels as if the Chinese is playing with house money, having saved match point to beat Lucie Safarova in round three on her way to reaching the final for the third time in four years.

The 31-year-old is the big favourite for tomorrow's final against a surprise package, Slovakia's 20th seed, Dominika Cibulkova. But if she does add the Australian Open trophy to the French Open crown she won in 2011, she knows who to thank.

"I will send her [Safarova] a smile," she said. "It is all I can do. I really felt after that match I was getting a second life in this tournament. In China, we say if you have a tough time and you pass that, it means you are so lucky. Or maybe they get me back from last year, I don't know."

In last year's final, Li fell and rolled her left ankle twice, on one of them hitting her head on the court and requiring treatment.

This time round, her head is clear and her form is strong, as she showed in her 6-2, 6-4 victory over Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard yesterday.

Three years ago, Li played her first grand slam final here and though she acquitted herself well, she never really believed she could beat Kim Clijsters.

"The first time I got to the final, I didn't have any experience," she admitted. "I was just feeling so excited. So when the problems came, I didn't know what to do.

"But I have more experience. The final is special, but still it's just one match. I still have to hit the ball. I cannot wait for the opponent to make a mistake."

At 5ft 3in, Cibulkova would be the shortest grand slam singles champion in the Open era.

The Slovakian, who upset Maria Sharapova in round four, played brilliantly again yesterday to thrash fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 6-2.

The 24-year-old Cibulkova showed no nerves and said she would have nothing to lose against Li, especially as she has lost all four of their previous matches. "I'm playing finals, so that's something beautiful," she said. "It's like a dream. So I will go just out there and try to play my best and to enjoy it, as I have been all the way through."

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