Azarenka ends Li’s winning run in Sydney


Victoria Azarenka ended Li Na’s unbeaten two-year run at the Sydney International with a fighting three-set victory in the final on Friday. The Belarusian third seed claimed her ninth career WTA title with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 victory over the fourth seeded Chinese star in one hour 56 minutes at Ken Rosewall Arena. French Open champion Li was on a nine-match winning run in Sydney after beating Kim Clijsters in last year’s final, but was edged out by Azarenka, who ranks third in the world behind Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova.
It capped a big week for 22-year-old Azarenka with victories over Jelena Jankovic, Marion Bartoli, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li ahead of Monday’s Australian Open in Melbourne. “It brings a lot of confidence,” Azarenka said. “But it’s going to be a new week, a new tournament, so for me it’s going to be starting from zero. “I’m glad the way I played here through those battles that I went through, so I really tested myself before a big event.
“I’m just going to try to keep going the same way with the same attitude, the same way I’m playing.” Despite her victory Azarenka will remain at number three in the world, while Li is expected to drop one place to sixth behind Australian Samantha Stosur when the next rankings are released on Monday. Azarenka is among six players with a chance of reaching the top spot depending on results at the year’s opening grand slam tournament in Melbourne. In three trips to Australia Li has compiled a 21-4 record, highlighted by a semi-final appearance at the 2010 Australian Open, her runner-up finish to Clijsters at last year’s Open, her Sydney win last year and the run to this week’s final. Li, who beat Kvitova in Thursday’s Sydney semis, heads to Melbourne in form after a dip in the second half of last year following her landmark French Open success, which saw her become the first Asian to win a grand slam title.