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Azarenka dethrones Li in Sydney finale

Sydney, Australia (Sports Network) - Third-seeded Belarusian star Victoria Azarenka defeated reigning champion Li Na in Friday's final at the $637,000 Sydney International tennis tournament, a final Australian Open tuneup.

Azarenka earned a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 victory after employing a strong return game in the third set at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre. She won 52 percent of the points on return and broke Li twice, while also saving 3-of-4 break points.

The 22-year-old Azarenka picked up her ninth career title and won a second consecutive match against Li, having defeated her in the season- ending WTA Championships last year. The Belarusian is now 3-4 lifetime against Li, who won their meeting in last season's Aussie Open on the way to an appearance in the final in Melbourne.

The fourth-seeded Li, who was seeking her sixth career title, appears to have improved her form after a rough end to 2011. She captured her first major title at the French Open last spring, but reached the semifinals at just one more tournament the rest of the year.

Azarenka earned $107,000 for winning this Sydney tournament, whose draw featured nine of the top 10 women in the world.

Li upset reigning Aussie Open champ Kim Clijsters in last year's Sydney finale.

01/13 10:19:18 ET