Melbourne, Jan 27(Agencies): Chinese tennis sensation Li Na defeated world number one Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday and became the first Asian woman to reach the final.

Li courageously saved a match point before clawing her way back into the encounter, her second straight Australian Open semi-final, dashing Wozniacki's hopes of winning a maiden major title.

The 28-year-old from Wuhan now has a golden opportunity to bring home China's first Grand Slam singles title, which would be expected to ignite the sport's popularity in the giant Asian country.

Li, China's number one, fought back from a poor start where she made error after error to give Wozniacki easy points, to gradually overhaul her younger opponent in hot conditions on Rod Laver Arena.

When asked what had inspired her gritty fightback, the crowd favourite laughingly replied: "Prize money", adding that her husband-coach Jiang Shan's snoring had disturbed her sleep.

"I didn't have a good night's sleep last night," she joked. "My husband (snored). I woke up every hour."

The 20-year-old Wozniacki had gone into the tournament having to fend off accusations that she wasn't a deserving world number one because she is yet to win a Grand Slam.

But for the first set-and-a-half, as she systematically picked apart Li's game and broke down the Chinese player's fierce forehand, she looked every bit the world's best player.

However, just when Li looked down and out, she cut down her error rate and began to find her range with her groundstrokes, before overwhelming a tiring Wozniacki to set up a final against either Kim Clijsters or Vera Zvonareva.

"I'm happy that I am the first Chinese player to make the final," said the smiling Li, as her husband Jiang beamed down from the stands.

By reaching the semis Li was already assured of returning to the top 10, after becoming the first Chinese player to crack the elite group following last year's semifinal, when she was beaten by eventual champion Serena Williams.

The trailblazing Li, China's first WTA champion, also remains unbeaten in 2011 after winning this month's Sydney International, when she shocked three-time US Open winner Clijsters in the final.

But victory had looked out of reach for the out-of-sorts Li during the first set, as the far steadier Wozniacki chased everything down and kept the pressure right on her opponent.

Aided by Li's 17 unforced errors, Wozniacki broke the Chinese number one twice to close out the opening set in 39 minutes.

Li, usually so solid on her groundstrokes, sprayed the ball wide and long from both her forehand and backhand sides.

She regrouped and played much better at the start of the second set, winning her opening service game to love and pushing Wozniacki.

Li was broken but struck back at 4-3 to get the set back on serve, only to be broken again to leave Wozniacki serving for a place in her second Grand Slam final, after the 2009 US Open.

But on Wozniacki's match point, Li fired a blistering forehand down the line and then broke back, and broke again to level the match.

Both women appeared fatigued by the hot conditions but it was Li who cracked first at 1-1 in the third as the errors came back into her game.

Li was anguished to be broken early in the seesawing deciding set, yelling in frustration at Jiang, but with both players struggling to hold serve the Chinese clinched it on her first match point as Wozniacki's forehand went long.