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Venus, Nadal, Roddick out; Serena gains in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia - Venus Williams was one service game away from reaching the semifinals and a projected matchup with her sister Serena at the Australian Open, until she stumbled in a flurry of errors and lost to No. 16 Li Na.

Li reached a major singles semifinal for the first time with the 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 win Wednesday, giving China two players into the last four of a tennis major for the first time.

Serena Williams, the defending champion, almost joined her sister on the sidelines. Down a set and trailing 4-0 in the second to Victoria Azarenka, Serena bore down and rallied for a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory. She will meet the surprising Li in the semifinals.

"Best day of my whole life," said a grinning Li. Zheng Jie will play in the other semifinal against former No. 1-ranked Justine Henin.

"Good for both players. Also good for China's tennis," Li said. "Also good for the fans. Thank you."

Li, who had never gone beyond the quarterfinals at a major tournament, needed three match points, eventually converting it with consecutive forehand winners down the line.

The match featured a combined 110 unforced errors, Williams committing 53 of those and had 11 double-faults, including five in the third set.

In men's matches Tuesday, defending champion Rafael Nadal was forced to retire because of an injured knee while trailing Britain's Andy Murray 6-3, 7-6 (2), 3-0 in a quarterfinal.

Andy Roddick also needed a medical timeout because of a sore right shoulder after the first set of his match against No. 14 Marin Cilic. Roddick played on for another four sets, but lost to Cilic, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3. Cilic will meet Murray in the semifinals.

New York Sports