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       === Azarenka prevails; Serena wins again at WTA Championships ===
 
 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.
 Open finale.
 
 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
 victory.
 
 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
 prestigious event.
 
 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.
 
 
 
 10/24 15:58:28 ET