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Sharapova ready for Li showdown
Maria Sharapova has denied inside knowledge will be a factor in her Australian Open semi-final against Li Na and insisted it will come down to "execution" on the day.
There are links between the pair: Sharapova's current coach Thomas Hogstedt is a former mentor of Li while the two players are managed by the same agent, Max Eisenbud. But Sharapova believes their off-court set-ups will have no bearing on their last-four clash on Thursday.
"We've played against each other so many times, before Thomas was my coach and since. We know each other's games, it has nothing to do with it," said Sharapova. "Our coaches are not the ones that are going out on the court and playing against each other. We're certainly experienced enough and at the end of the day it's all about execution and not the other factors."
Sharapova has executed well in Melbourne so far, dropping just nine games in reaching the semi-finals - bettering the tournament record of 12 set by Monica Seles in 1991.
She beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-2 6-2 on Tuesday in a repeat of the win over her fellow Russian at the same stage last year.
"I thought today was going to be a really good test," added Sharapova. "She has beaten quality players over the course of the last week and I know that she's capable of playing well. She's also a lefty, which is a bit tricky, so I thought I handled that pretty well and was able to keep my focus all the way through the match."
Li made it through to her third Melbourne semi-final after halting Agnieszka Radwanska's blistering start to 2013.
Fourth seed Radwanska came into the match having won 13 straight matches, a run which included a victory over Li in Sydney, but she had no answer on this occasion as the Chinese won 7-5 6-3.
Li was pleased to gain revenge for defeat a fortnight ago, saying: "This time I was fit, not like last time. Last time I was a little bit tired with all the travelling. At a grand slam you can play one day and then have the next day off. I was feeling much better.
"But she's a tough player, it felt like I was playing against a wall today. She can hit the ball everywhere without making a mistake. It was very tough."