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Li storms into final at Aegon

MARIA Sharapova's preparations for Wimbledon suffered a setback yesterday, when the Russian lost 4-6, 4-6 to Li Na of China in the Aegon Classic semifinals in Birmingham.

The former world No. 1, who had been out for 10 months with a shoulder injury, served erratically to drop to 5-1 against the 20th-ranked Li.

"After such a long layover, every match and every situation is a different test to the body," said Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion.

"I still felt like I had many chances in this match, but I have played five matches in the last six days and after that you just hope you wake up with that intensity you need. Against her you need that."

Sharapova's remodeled service action -- designed to prevent injury -- lacked rhythm and conviction and she was broken six times.

She dropped serve to trail 2-4 in the first set after missing a forehand before recovering to be 4-5 down. However, she was broken again to lose the set.

Sharapova broke to lead 2-0 in the second set, but then lost four straight games to her fourth-seeded opponent and never recovered.

Li will take on Magdalena Rybarikova after the 13th-seeded Slovak rallied past unseeded Sania Mirza of India 3-6, 6-3, 6-0.

In London, Andy Murray reached his first grasscourt final yesterday after beating Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-2, 6-4 at the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club.

Top-seeded Murray is trying to become the first British winner of the pre-Wimbledon tournament since Bunny Austin in 1938 and will play American James Blake after his opponent compatriot Andy Roddick pulled out of their semifinal with a right ankle injury.

The second seed sprained his ankle at the end of the third game and carried on until 4-4 before pulling out.

Murray put Ferrero under pressure right from the start, breaking to lead 1-0 when his opponent netted a backhand. Serving well and moving swiftly around the court, Murray then raced to a 5-1 lead. The second set was more competitive but the result was the same.

In Halle, Germany, former world No. 2 Tommy Haas came from a set down to beat fellow German Philipp Kohlschreiber 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) yesterday and reach the Gerry Weber Open final.

World No. 4 Novak Djokovic was taking on Belgian qualifier Olivier Rochus in the other semifinal.


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