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               === Serena tops Azarenka at WTA Championships ===
 
 Istanbul,  Turkey  (Sports Network) -  In a rematch  of last month's U.S. Open
 final,  Serena  Williams once again  beat Victoria  Azarenka, this time at the
 season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul.
 
 The  third-seeded former world No. 1 Williams defeated the top-ranked Azarenka
 6-4,  6-4 in 1 hour, 35 minutes indoors at Sinan Erdem Dome. The American star
 swatted 11 aces, compared to zero for her Belarusian counterpart, who piled up
 nine double faults en route to defeat.
 
 After Williams snuck out a first-set win, Azarenka jumped out to a 3-0 second-
 set  lead with  the help of a  pair of breaks. But the powerful American would
 not  be denied on Day 3, as she roared back to win six of the next seven games
 and go 3-0 in this week's round-robin Red Group.
 
 Williams  captured the Red Group and had already secured a berth in Saturday's
 semifinals.  The sizzling-hot  star has  now  won 46  of her  last 48  matches
 overall and is a perfect 12-0 against top-five women this season.
 
 "Maybe  I'm  doing  the  right  things at  the  right  time,"  Williams  said.
 
 The  31-year-old  improved to 5-0  against Azarenka  in 2012, as Williams also
 beat  the  Belarusian in last  month's U.S. Open finale  and is now a lopsided
 11-1 lifetime against Azarenka.
 
 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.
 
 The  23-year-old Azarenka  now needs  to  beat Li  Na on  Friday to  guarantee
 herself  the year-end  No. 1 ranking. If Azarenka loses, Maria Sharapova would
 finish the year at No. 1 if she can go 5-0 this week.
 
 The  Australian  Open champion  Azarenka  was  last year's  WTA  Championships
 runner-up  to  Czech left-hander Petra Kvitova.
 
 In  Thursday's opening  match, the  former French  Open champion  Li kept  her
 semifinal hopes alive by dousing German southpaw Angelique Kerber.
 
 The  eighth-seeded Chinese  star improved  to 1-1  this week  with a  6-4, 6-3
 handling  of the  fifth-seeded Kerber,  who went  a disappointing  0-3 in  her
 round-robin assignments.
 
 Also  on  Day 3, the nightcap  saw seventh-seeded Italian Sara Errani hold off
 ninth-seeded  Aussie  Samantha Stosur 6-3,  2-6, 6-0. Stosur replaced the 2011
 WTA Championships titlist Kvitova in the eight-woman field on Wednesday.
 
 Errani  can reach  the  semis with  a victory  against  fourth seed  Agnieszka
 Radwanska on Friday, while Stosur's week will come to an end on Friday, win or
 lose, when she faces second-seeded Maria Sharapova.
 
 The  four-player Red  Group  here features  Azarenka  (1-1), Williams,  Kerber
 and  Li,  while  the  White  Group  boasts the  2004  champion  and  2007  WTA
 Championships  runner-up Sharapova  (2-0), the  Wimbledon runner-up  Radwanska
 (1-1),  the French  Open runner-up  Errani  (1-1) and  the replacement  Stosur
 (0-1).
 
 The   top-two   players  in  each   group  advance  to  the  semifinals,  with
 the  winners  squaring off in the  lucrative finale on Sunday. Sharapova, like
 Williams, has already secured a berth in the final four.
 
 The winner of this $4.9 million event could collect as much as $1.75 million.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 10/25 16:58:04 ET