MELBOURNE - China's Li Na moved tantalisingly close to her first Australian Open title Thursday, as Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka finally stepped out of the great Roger Federer's shadow by reaching the men's final.

Li, 31, halted future superstar Eugenie Bouchard to reach her third Melbourne final in four attempts, giving herself a magnificent chance of clinching a second Grand Slam title. The world number four will start Saturday's final as favourite against pint-sized Dominika Cibulkova, despite a hot run of form by the Slovak, who added Agnieszka Radwanska to her list of conquests. Victory for Li could have wide repercussions for tennis in Asia, which received a huge boost from her 2011 French Open win when she became the region's first Grand Slam singles champion. She was never seriously threatened by Canada's Bouchard, 19, who was playing her first Grand Slam semi-final, and after dominating the first set she took it 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 26 minutes. Li, intelligently guided by coach Carlos Rodriguez, now has a great opportunity to make up for the 2011 and 2013 finals, which both ended in tears when she lost from winning positions. Last year, she twice rolled her ankle in the final against Victoria Azarenka, and on the second occasion she banged her head so hard on the court that she briefly blacked out.

"It is the third time, so pretty close to the trophy," she said. "At least I'll try to not fall down this time, because last year in the final I think I played well but I only can say (I was) unlucky because I fell down twice." Cibulkova, at just five feet three inches (1.61m), stands to become the shortest ever Grand Slam champion if she can continue her outrageous winning streak in Melbourne. The energetic Slovak, who shocked Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, blew away flagging Polish fifth seed Radwanska 6-1, 6-2 to reach her first major final.

"I'm playing the final, so that's something beautiful. It's like a dream. So I will go just out there and play my best, try to do my best," she said. Thursday's only men's semi-final was a tight affair with a fairytale ending as the popular, hard-working Wawrinka edged towering Czech Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4). With little to separate the eighth and seventh seeds, a loose service game from Berdych settled the first set and double-faults in the third and fourth set tiebreakers helped seal his fate. "I'm speechless, it's amazing. I am so happy to win that match to make my first final here," Wawrinka said. "I am working every day to try and win matches. I didn't expect to make a final in a Grand Slam and tonight it's happened, so tonight I'm really happy." The result means that unless Federer wins the title, Wawrinka, 28, will overtake him as Switzerland's number one player, a reign which stretches back to 2001.

Wawrinka, tattooed with Irish poet Samuel Beckett's line, "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better", will now hope Federer can set up an all-Swiss final when he plays great rival Rafael Nadal in Friday's second semi-final. But arguably Thursday's biggest winner was one of the losers, Bouchard, whose telegenic looks and poise already have her touted as a successor to Sharapova as women's tennis's most marketable athlete.

"She's got the personality, she's got the game, she's got the looks. She speaks two languages (French and English) and the crossover appeal is great," her agent, Sam Duvall, told Fairfax Media. "Aussie fans love her, French fans love her... I think she is very rare, let's put it that way. I really think she has the ability to be more marketable than Maria."

Meanwhile, Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka reached his first Grand Slam final after edging out Tomas Berdych in four tight sets at the Australian Open on Thursday.

The eighth seed beat the Czech 6-3, 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) in three hours 31 minutes and will play either Rafael Nadal or fellow Swiss Roger Federer in Sunday's final. Wawrinka, who upset three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, will supplant Federer as the Swiss number one unless the 17-time Grand Slam champion wins the title. Federer has held the top Swiss ranking since 2001. "I'm speechless, it's amazing. I am so happy to win that match to make my first final here," Wawrinka said. "I am working every day to try and win matches. I didn't expect to make a final in a Grand Slam and tonight it's happened, so tonight I'm really happy."

Wawrinka didn't lose serve and only had one break point against him as big-serving Berdych dished up seven double faults, four of them, crucially, in the third and fourth set tiebreakers. Berdych's serve was only broken once and Wawrinka shaded the Czech by just one point (143-142) throughout the whole match.

It will be Wawrinka's first major final after he lost to Djokovic in five sets in the semi-finals at last year's US Open. Wawrinka reaches a major final at his 36th Grand Slam appearance, and becomes only the second Swiss man behind Federer to play in a slam final. It was Wawrinka's fourth straight victory over Berdych and his second win over the Czech in three Slams. Wawrinka won the opening set when Berdych missed an overhead smash on break point in the seventh game, but the Czech levelled the match by taking the second-set tiebreaker. Both players were unable to break serve and the semi-final was decided with Wawrinka winning the final two tiebreakers to edge home. Wawrinka hit 18 aces among his haul of 57 winners and won 82 percent of his first-serve points, the same as Berdych.