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Li Na shrugs off shock Indian Wells exit

updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat March 15, 2014
Italian tennis player Flavia Pennetta celebrates her victory over China's world No. 2 Li Na at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Italian tennis player Flavia Pennetta celebrates her victory over China's world No. 2 Li Na at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
  • Flavia Pennetta shocks world No. 2 Li Na to reach final at Indian Wells
  • Italian will face world No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska in Sunday's title match
  • Poland's Radwanska ends run of Romania's rising star Simona Halep
  • Men's No. 2 Novak Djokovic sets up semifinal against John Isner

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(CNN) -- For Li Na, it was no big deal. For Flavia Pennetta, it was one of the most important victories of her tennis career.

The tale of the two 32-year-olds could not be more contrasting: Li has risen to second in the world rankings following January's Australian Open triumph, while Pennetta is hoping to climb as high as 12th by winning the biggest final she has ever played in.

The Italian battled through to Sunday's title match at Indian Wells by avenging her one-sided Melbourne quarterfinal defeat against Li, this time triumphing 7-6 (7-5) 63 in one hour 48 minutes.

She earned a clash with Polish second seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who defeated Romania's No. 6 Simona Halep 6-3 6-4 in Friday's opening semifinal.

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"I have to be really aggressive. I have to go for winners," Pennetta said of Radwanska, who she beat in Dubai in February before losing to eventual champion Venus Williams in the quarterfinals.

"But I can't rush too much, because she's a wall. I mean, I have to make seven times the winners against her. But I played really well against her in Dubai, so I hope to play the same way this time."

Li, the top seed in the Californian desert tournament in the absence of Serena Williams, shrugged off her defeat -- having improved on her last tournament outing, which ended in the second round in Qatar last month.

"It's not bad. It's not like I lost my first match," China's first grand slam singles champion said. "At least I had a few matches in Indian Wells, and making the semifinals isn't bad, and it's not like I lost to a bad player. She was playing really well.

"It's nothing to worry about. I have a couple things I want to improve for the next tournament."

Pennetta is seeking her 10th WTA Tour title, but her first in a top-tier tournament -- and she has lost 13 other finals.

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"In the beginning of the week if you told me, 'You're going to make the final here,' I would have said, 'Mmmm, I don't think so!' So I'm really happy. I'm happy with my game," she said.

Halep, meanwhile, will rise to fifth from seventh in the rankings despite her defeat -- the best by any woman player from her country.

"It's amazing for me. I'm not sad because I lost here. It happens. That's tennis. I have to understand I cannot win every match," said the 22-year-old.

Australian Open semifinalist Radwanska will be seeking her 14th WTA title, and her first since last September's Korea Open.

Meanwhile, men's No. 2 Novak Djokovic made it through to Saturday's semifinals at Indian Wells, where he won the 2008 and 2011 titles.

The Serbian defeated France's Julien Benneteau 6-1 6-3 on Friday to set up a clash with American John Isner -- who beat him at the same stage two years ago.

Big-serving Isner progressed by beating Latvia's Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-3) on Friday.

Roger Federer, a four-time champion in the Coachella Valley, will face Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov in Saturday's opening semi.

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