Cirstea has put together the best run of her career, taking out two former No.1 ranked players in Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic, and then two former grand slam champions in Petra Kvitova and Li.
The 23-year-old Cirstea was by no means perfect in the semi-final, but was resourceful and did not implode when the pressure was on.
“I think that’s a big change for me,” she said. “Before, I would get down on myself, while now I just try and focus every single point and I don’t care so much what’s just happened in the past.”
Cirstea raced through the opening set in just 21 minutes as Li, last year’s Rogers Cup finalist, was wild and inconsistent. But the former French Open champion picked up her game in the second set, breaking Cirstea to lead 3-1 when the Romanian dumped a backhand into the net. Li fought off three break points in the next game and appeared to have control of the set when Cirstea sought advice from her coach Darren Cahill.
Cirstea broke Li when she was trying to serve out the set at 5-4 then broke her again to snatch a 6-5 lead.
Although she failed to serve out the match herself, squandering two match points, then fell 4-1 behind in the tiebreaker, she regained her composure as Li started to falter, handing victory to Cirstea on a double-fault.
“She’s got a lot of confidence now,” Li said. “Sometimes I was feeling she couldn’t hit a winner, but the ball came to you as a winner. It’s very tough.”
Cirstea’s opponent in today’s final will be either Serena Williams or Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, who were due to meet in the second semi-final on Saturday night.
In the men’s Rogers Cup semi-final in Montreal Milos Raonic recovered from a mid-match slump to win a third set tiebreaker against wildcard Vasek Pospisil. Raonic, ranked 13th in the world, regained his composure to beat his fellow Canadian 6-4 1-6, 7-6(4) and reach his first Masters series final.
His opponent in today’s final will be either Rafa Nadal or world No.1 Novak Djokovic. The pair were due to meet in the second semi-final, later on last night.
Djokovic looked in devastating form in the quarter-finals, laying down an early marker ahead of the US Open with a performance he described “as close to perfection”.
The Serbian was imperious in a 6-1 6-2 thumping of Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
“In every part of my game I was at my best,” Djokovic said after taking just 52 minutes to humble the world No.9. “From the start of the match I tried to dictate the play on the court. I did it really well. As close to perfection as you can be, really.”
Nadal was equally as emphatic on the scoreboard in a convincing straight-sets win over Australian qualifier Marinko Matosevic.
Andy Murray was back on court in Montreal last night, playing with fellow Scot Colin Fleming in the semi-finals of the men’s doubles against Robert Lindstedt of Sweden and Daniel Nestor of Canada.