(October 24, 2012) In a battle which featured high quality shot-making and high drama, No. 1 Victoria Azarenka saved two match points to turn back Angelique Kerber 6-7(11), 7-6(2), 6-4 in three hours in her first round-robin match at the WTA Championships in Istanbul on Wednesday. Azarenka is just one victory away from clinching the year-end No. 1 world ranking.
Kerber fought back from 2-6 down in the opening set tiebreak to capture the set 7-6(13-11)
The 13-11 first set tie-break won by Kerber over Azarenka equals two other tiebreaks for the longest in singles in TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships history – Steffi Graf defeating Lindsay Davenport in 1996 quarterfinal and
Helena Sukova beating Jo Durie in 1984 round of 16.
Both women determined to triumph smashed racquets in the second set. No. 5 Kerber came back from a break down in the second set, but took a 5-4 lead after a games which went to deuce nine times and lasted almost 14 minutes.
Azarenka saved two match points in the second set before dominating the tiebreak 7-2.
“Vika played unbelievable in those moments,” Kerber said. “And also I was 2‑6 down in the tiebreak and I won it, so it was maybe the same thing. I mean, I had the match points in the second set but she played unbelievable and I couldn’t do nothing.”
Azarenka’s win over Kerber ties the WTA Championships record for most games at 36, and it is the third match to last that long. The previous two matches were – Justine Henin defeating Anastasia Myskina, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 (2003 round-robin), and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario over Jana Novotna, 6-7(2), 7-6(2), 6-4 (1993 quarterfinal).
“It was definitely a great fight,” Azarenka said. “I’m more proud of the way I handled and stayed in that match, because all those emotions kind of overcome the hitting shots and moving around.
“It’s just that fight, that tension that you have throughout the match, it’s just, I don’t know, overwhelms the rest.”
“She (Kerber) provoked a lot of mistakes from me which was also not very pleasant for me, but on the match points I just thought I had to go for it,” the Belarusian continued. She will not miss, so I didn’t have to wait for her mistake. I had to go for it.
“I was so determined to make it happen. I wanted to change the momentum. I wanted to take the kind of destiny into my hands. You know, if I would have missed those shots it will be up to me, not up to my opponent.”
Kerber now 0-2 in Red Group play, has had a career year. This is her first year-end championship, rising from No. 32 at the end of 2011 to No. 5.
Next round-robin match for Azarenka will be 15-time major champion and No. 3 Serena Williams – win would solidify her year-ending No. 1 ranking.
“I think it’s always kind of special when I play Serena,“ Azarenka said. “We always play on the bigger stages with her, so this is also another big stage. Tomorrow it’s going to be another day, you know, a little bit different condition. We never played indoors, so I’m looking forward to that.
“I don’t really think about the ranking. I actually didn’t even know that. So I will just try to focus on my game, because after the game it will be decided. It’s kind of out of my hands before I control what happens on the court.”
TEB BNP PARIBAS WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS – ISTANBUL 2012
October 23-28, 2012
Results – Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Round Robin – Red Group
(1) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (5) Angelique Kerber (GER) 67(11) 76(2) 64 (saved 2mp)
(3) Serena Williams (USA) d. (8) Li Na (CHN) 76(2) 63
Round Robin – White Group
(2) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. (4) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 57 75 75
Order Of Play – Thursday, October 25, 2012
Stadium (from 17.00hrs)
 Angelique Kerber (GER) vs  Li Na (CHN)
 Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs  Serena Williams (USA)
 Samantha Stosur (AUS) vs  Sara Errani (ITA)