China's Li, Peng advance to Shenzhen final
Li Na of China hits a return against Annika Beck of Germany during their women's singles semi-final match at the WTA Shenzhen Open tennis tournament at Longgang Sports Center in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province on January 3, 2014
Li, Asia's highest-ranking player in tennis history and the top seed at the WTA tournament, swept aside Germany's Annika Beck, who was seeded eighth, 6-1, 6-3.
Peng, the fifth seed, booked her slot in the final with a walkover after American Vania King withdrew from their semi-final after reportedly injuring her thigh.
Li, 31, is the defending Shenzhen Open champion and currently ranked number three in the world.
Her success has sparked new Chinese interest in tennis as well as a swell of national pride. China's state broadcaster CCTV this week named her rise its number two sports story of 2013.
"It'll be a tough match tomorrow, as we're quite familiar with each other," Li said of Peng, the official Xinhua news agency reported. "We both have improved a lot over the last year. I'm quite looking forward to the final."
King had upset second seed Sara Errani of Italy on Wednesday, but Xinhua quoted her as saying she began to feel pain in her leg during that match and decided to withdraw ahead of the upcoming Australian Open in order to rest.
"It was a really difficult decision for me to pull out because I hate losing and not competing," King said, according to Xinhua. "But I just have to look out for my health."