Djokovic reaches final in China
Beijing - Novak Djokovic brushed aside Florian Mayer in the China Open Saturday to set up a final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka made it to the last two of the women's event.
The world number two from Serbia furthered his aim of finishing the year top of the ATP rankings with a simple straight-sets victory, maintaining his unbeaten record at the Beijing tournament which stretches back three years.
Top-seed Djokovic defeated the 29th-ranked Mayer of Germany 6-1, 6-4.
The 25-year-old, second to Roger Federer in the rankings, has won the China Open on the two occasions he has entered - in 2009 and 2010 - and will aim to make out three out of three against France's Tsonga on Sunday.
Tsonga marched into the final when Spain's Feliciano Lopez retired during the second set of their match.
The world number seven thrashed Lopez 6-1 in the first set and was 4-1 up in the second when the left-handed Spaniard called it a day, citing an injury to his left wrist.
"I played really well and I felt really good on the court," Tsonga said. "I didn't know before he was a bit injured. I'm just happy today with my game."
The Frenchman has enjoyed an easy progression to the final of the Beijing tournament since needing three sets to overcome Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in the first round.
The 27-year-old received a walkover in the second round after Nikolay Davydenko withdrew and beat Russia's Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets in the third.
"During this week my level has got better and better," Tsonga said.
"I have played maybe some of my best tennis here. I haven't played like this in couple of months and maybe a couple of years now and that's why I think I can win the final tomorrow."
In the women's draw, Sharapova overcame home favourite Li Na in straight sets.
The 25-year-old Russian defeated Li, Asia's only Grand Slam winner, 6-4, 6-0, to reach the final for the first time in five attempts, but it took the French Open champion a while to break into her stride.
Li sped to an early 3-1 lead due to some poor serving by Sharapova, including three consecutive double faults in one game, but the Russian fought back, winning three games in a row before taking the set with a break.
"It was a really high-quality first set with a few ups and downs and obviously she (Li) had the lead," Sharapova said.
"In those first few games I thought my percentage of first serve was low.
"Against someone like Li Na who likes to step in and take the ball early, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to have to hit too many second serves.
"My goal after that was just to get my first-serve percentage much higher than it was in the first three or four games," she added.
"I came back and then I broke her in that last game of the first set. It was important for me to take that momentum going into the second."
And continue her momentum she did, taking six games without reply to steamroll Li - who has never won her home tournament - in little over half an hour.
"She had a better performance than I did and she had better control of the match, but I think I played pretty well today," Li said.
World number one Azarenka made from Belarus beat ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-2.
"I felt the first set was really close and could have gone either way," Bartoli said.
"Vika (Victoria) is probably the best returner in the game and it's not like I was serving badly. She was breaking me because she was returning too well and that's why I couldn't win the points," the world number 10 added.
"Maybe she could have missed one or two but she didn't. That's the way it is."
Results from the China Open in Beijing on Saturday (x denotes seeding):
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x3) bt Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-1, 4-1 (retired)
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Florian Mayer (GER) 6-1, 6-4
Maria Sharapova (RUS x2) bt Li Na (CHN x7) 6-4, 6-0
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x1) bt Marion Bartoli (FRA x9) 6-4, 6-2