ISTANBUL – Victoria Azarenka moved a step closer to securing the year-end No 1 ranking with a 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 win over Germany’s Angelique Kerber at the WTA Championships in Istanbul on Wednesday.
Azarenka needed three hours and six minutes to repel Kerber, but Maria Sharapova’s 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 win over Agnieszka Radwanska took even longer to complete, the three hours and 12 minutes contest ending at 02:12 in the morning.
In another tight contest that opened the evening session, No 3 Serena Williams took down China’s Li Na 7-6, 6-3 in one hour and 50 minutes.
Before play began, title holder Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic pulled out of the tournament due to a viral illness and was replaced by Australian Samantha Stosur.
With her round robin victory in the Red Group, Azarenka only needs to win one more match to secure the year- end top spot.
With their second wins of the Championships, Sharapova and Williams both guaranteed themselves spots in the semifinals.
Belarusian Azarenka fought off two match points at 6-5 down in the second set in brilliant fashion, ripping an inside-out forehand and backhand down the line winners.
She won the tiebreaker 7-2 with another forehand winner and managed to stop a Kerber charge in the third set.
The hard hitting Azarenka failed to serve out the match at 5-3, but broke the German to win their encounter with a forehand down the line.
Sharapova was a set and 2-4 down in the second before storming back to best the Pole, despite having her serve broken five times in the match. -Supersport