Istanbul, Turkey (Sports Network) - World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka saved two
match points in her opening-match victory, while two-time titlist Serena
Williams improved to 2-0 in round-robin play at the season-ending WTA
Championships in Istanbul.
Azarenka staved off fifth-seeded German left-hander Angelique Kerber 6-7
(11-13), 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 in a high-quality 3-hour, 6-minute battle on
Wednesday. The Belarusian star saved the match points en route to forcing a
second-set tiebreak, which she wound up dominating before coming out on top in
a tight third.
The 23-year-old Azarenka now needs only one more win this week to end the year
at No. 1.
Azarenka and Williams will square off on Thursday, with the American seeking a
fifth win in five tries this year. Williams beat Azarenka in last month's U.S.
The Australian Open champion Azarenka was last year's WTA Championships
runner-up to Czech southpaw Petra Kvitova, who pulled out of the Istanbul
field on Wednesday due to a viral illness.
Meanwhile, the third-seeded former top-ranked great Williams got past eighth-
seeded former French Open champion Li Na, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, indoors at Sinan
Erdem Dome. The powerful American smacked six aces in the 1-hour, 50-minute
The 2012 Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Olympic champion Williams captured WTA
Championships titles in 2001 and 2009 and is a two-time runner-up at this
This week's four-player Group A features Azarenka (1-0), Williams (2-0),
Kerber (0-2) and Li (0-1), while Group B boasts second-seeded 2004 champion
and 2007 WTA Championships runner-up Maria Sharapova (1-0), Wimbledon runner-
up Agnieszka Radwanska (1-0), seventh-seeded French Open runner-up Sara Errani
(0-1) and Sam Stosur, who replaced last year's Championships winner Kvitova in
this week's field.
The top-two players in each group will advance to the semifinals. with
the winners squaring off in the lucrative final on Sunday.
Also in Istanbul on Thursday, Kerber will face Li and Errani will tangle with
a ninth-seeded Stosur.
The winner of this $4.9 million event could collect as much as $1.75 million.
The Sports Network