DOHA, Qatar - Defending champion Victoria Azarenka stunned Serena Williams 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3 to win the Qatar Open on Sunday, earning her 16th title and ending a 10-match losing streak against the American.
Azarenka will give up the No. 1 ranking to the second-ranked Williams on Monday but extended her current winning streak to 14 matches, including her second Australian Open title. More importantly, she may have turned around what has been a one-sided rivalry against Williams. Azarenka had not beaten Williams since 2009 in Miami, and had a 1-11 record against the American going into Sunday's final.
Azarenka broke to go up 2-1 when an erratic Williams hit one of her four double-faults, but the American ensured it was back on serve after eight games. Williams won four straight points in the tiebreaker to lead 6-5, but the Belarusian saved the set point and then won it herself with a great return.
Williams dominated the second set with her powerful serve and forehand. Azarenka appeared anxious in the third falling behind 0-30 but then won the game and jumped out to a 3-0. lead. She extended it to 5-2 lead before Williams hit a great crosscourt backhand to make it 5-3 to stay the match. But serving for the match, Azarenka went up 40-0 and clinched the victory when Williams hit a forehand wide.
"I just wanted to fight and give it my best, give myself every opportunity I can," Azarenka said. "I started with love-30 (in the third) and I was like, 'You have to keep it together. You have to do something.' Serena was on a roll ... so I had to really step up my game. I'm really glad I could turn it around and stay tough."
Azarenka needs to reach the final in Dubai to have a chance at returning to top spot. If Serena reaches the final next week, Azarenka would need to beat her in the title match to return to No. 1.