Li Na will become China's first Grand Slam singles finalist when she takes on Belgian third seed Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open on Saturday.
Clijsters can add to her own remarkable story by winning a fourth Grand Slam title in Melbourne, but Li's run to the final has broken new ground for tennis.
Li is unbeaten in 11 matches this year and beat Clijsters to win in Sydney on the eve of the Australian Open.
Clijsters is going for back-to-back Slams after September's US Open win.
The pair have met six times in the past, with Clijsters leading 4-2 but having lost two of the last three, including that defeat in Sydney which came after the Belgian had raced into an early 5-0 lead before dropping the first set on a tie-break.
"I think she's a good player," said Clijsters, remembering the Sydney final. "I think we're very similar type of players, I think we have a lot of things in common on the court.
"She played extremely well to get back, and was very focused and determined and just hit some incredible shots out there."
But Li is playing down that victory as she prepares to take to the biggest stage - a Grand Slam final.
"I wish this time I will not start 5-0 down," said the ninth seed. "I think it will be a matter of who starts the best, who can get into their game quicker. I beat her last time. Doesn't mean anything here."
China's tennis chief, Sun Jinfang, has hailed Li Na as a "pioneer" on a par with basketball idol Yao Ming and champion hurdler Liu Xiang for becoming the first Asian woman to reach a Grand Slam singles final and the sport as a whole is keen to build on her success.
"Women's tennis is already one of the fastest growing sports in China thanks to the celebrity status and success of Li Na and her compatriots," said WTA chief Stacey Allaster.
However, Li, who sports a tattoo on her chest of a rose inside a heart, has been something of a rebel throughout her career, breaking away from the state system in 2008 and hiring her own coach, before replacing former coach Thomas Hogstedt with her husband, Jiang Shan, in 2010.
Asked about her recent involvement with the Chinese tennis federation, the jovial Li said: "Yesterday I got a text message from the federation boss. She say, 'Oh, well done. You come back, I pay the dinner.' I say, 'What, only the dinner?'"
Clijsters has guaranteed she will rise to number two in the rankings after the tournament, continuing her successful return to tennis after ending a spell in retirement in late 2009.
She has since picked up two US Open titles, to add to her victory at Flushing Meadows in 2005, but in seven previous Grand Slam finals the 27-year-old has yet to land a major title outside of New York.
And following her marriage to basketball player Brian Lynch and the birth of their first child, Jada, in 2008, Clijsters can already see the end of her career looming as she plans to concentrate of family life.
"I know this is probably going to be my last full season on the tour, and then we'll see," she said. "You know, it's nice that I'm in this spot to reach the final, to play for the title."