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Victoria Azarenka needs to repeat as Australian Open champion to stay No. 1

Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:05 AM
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MELBOURNE, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Victoria Azarenka is back in the Australian Open women's singles final, this time against Li Na, with the No. 1 world ranking at stake.

Azarenka defeated Maria Sharapova in the 2012 Australian Open women's final for her first Grand Slam title. It also moved her into the No. 1 world ranking for the first time.

She's held that position for most of the ensuing year but the surge by Serena Williams over the second half of 2012 -- including a win over Azarenka in the U.S. Open final -- leaves Azarenka needing a win Saturday over Li to retain the title and top ranking.

Saturday will mark the third major tournament final for Azarenka.

Li is also in her third Grand Slam final. She was lost 2011 Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters but beat Francesca Schiavone for the 2011 French Open championship. She's only been in one other major tournament semifinal.

Azarenka's run to the finals was surprisingly clean. She faced just one seeded player and that was No. 29 Sloane Stephens in the semifinals. Azarenka has lost one set in the tournament.

Li, on the other hand, drew four seeded players, including fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, who hadn't lost in 2013, and second-seeded Maria Sharapova, who'd dropped only nine games in her first five Australian Open matches. Li defeated both in straight sets.

Azarenka has won her last four matches against Li, running her career record to 5-4. Two of the three matches, however, went three sets.

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