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Azarenka hits form with Sydney triumph

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Originally published on: 13/01/12 12:05

Victoria Azarenka laid down a marker for the Australian Open after beating Li Na in three sets for victory at the Apia International Sydney.

The Belarusian overcame a second set wobble to triumph 6-2 1-6 6-3 against the defending champion at the Ken Rosewall Arena to claim the ninth WTA title of her career.

With much of the focus on the battle for top spot between current world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova, world No.3 Azarenka has quietly motored into contention for her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne, having never before been beyond a semi-final at a major tournament.

The 22-year-old achieved a career-best quarter-final run in Melbourne in 2010, but lost to eventual finalist Li in straight sets in the fourth round last year.

This year, Azarenka will open her account in Melbourne against Britain’s Heather Watson, with a fairly clear path to the quarter-finals, where she could meet Francesca Schiavone or Agnieszka Radwanska.

World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki faces Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova in her first match, while 15-year-old Ashleigh Barty could meet the Dane if she can pull off a surprise win over Anna Tatishvili.

Maria Sharapova lines up against Gisela Dulko in her opening match, Serena Williams takes on Tamira Pazek, Petra Kvitova plays Vera Dushevina and reigning champion Kim Clijsters faces a qualifier.

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